Inerrancy and Authority

 

Inerrancy and. Authority

 

 

 

With all the talk of inerrancy, limited inerrancy, and various other  questions about the Bible today, it may sometimes be forgotten that what is actually at stake is the issue of authority. It is not a question of whether or not we have an authority. Montgomery, in writing about Romanism, says:

Surely some final authority must exist, and it would. appear that it now rests in the New Shape Roman theologian and. his community of like-minded. souls. There is thus more than irony in the definition of infallibility in Dominican Maurice Lelong’s “New Church Lexicon”: “The scandal of Vatican I. Infallibility can only be collective and. popular.” Inerrancy can no longer focus on one book or one man; it is now corporate and. democratic! Does this suggest the profound truth that no one ever dispenses with authority - one only relocates it?

Authority always exists. The question is, is my authority adequate? Where is it located?

I contend that, although any view of scripture allows for some kind of authority, without inerrancy there can be no adequate authority for the questions facing us.

This is not presented as a proof of inerrancy. It simply does not follow that because we need an adequate authority, therefore we must have it. If inerrancy of Scripture is false, my contention is that we do not have an adequate authority, and if we do not have an adequate authority, we will have to live without one - or we can commit suicide, and. if the Bible is errant, we have no authority great enough to tell us we must not do so.

In order to present my arguments clearly, it is important to the reader know where I am coming from. Many writers today do not begin by establishing their presuppositions, perhaps with the hope that the reader will think they don’t have any. But no one ever thinks without presuppositions, and for this reason, every argument is actually circular. The logical positivist, who claims to work inductively from primary information, still has to presuppose the validity of reason, or his senses.

Not only do all arguments carry presuppositions, but presuppositions are very difficult to refute, because before they can be falsified they must be given up. They cannot be proven or dis-proven.

That is not to say, however, that no argument can be persuasive. J. M. Frame brings this out clearly.

A “proof” of, say, the primacy of reason, can be highly persuasive and logically sound even though, at one level, circular. The circularity is rarely blatant; it lurks in the background.. One never says, “reason is true because reason says it is.” One says instead, “Reason is true because one must presuppose it even to deny it.” The second. argument is just as circular as the first. Both presuppose the validity of reason. But in the second argument the presupposition is implicit rather than explicit. And the second one is highly persuasive! The irrationalist cannot help but note that he is (in many cases) presenting his irrationalism in a highly rational way. He is trying to be more rational than the rationalist - a contradictory way to be! He must decide either to be a more consistent irrationalist (but note the paradox of that!) or to abandon his irrationalism. Of course, he might renounce consistency altogether, thus renouncing the presupposition of the argument. But the argument shows him vividly how hard it is to live without rationality. The argument is circular, but it draws some important facts to his attention. The argument is persuasive though circular because down deep in our hearts we know that we cannot live without reason.

 

Again he says:

A Christian Theist, while conceding that the argument for God’s existence is circular, nevertheless will claim that the argument is sound and persuasive, for he devoutly believes that his position is true, and he believes that it can be recognized clearly as such. He believes that God made man to think in terms of this circularity, rather than in terms of some competing circularity.”

While conceding that my arguments will be ultimately circular, and admitting my presuppositions right from the start, as I believe any honest writer ought to do, I still believe that the arguments presented will be reasonable and, hopefully, persuasive.

 

Basic presuppositions of this paper

 

Firstly, in this paper I am presupposing the validity of reason, or more specifically, the principle of non-contradiction. Actually, anyone who ever sits down to write, or even anyone who converses with anyone, has in practice presupposed. the validity of reason, for without reason, all communication is nonsense, and it is foolish to attempt it. It stands to reason that if my propositions can contradict reality, and if I can contradict myself, then in fact I will have communicated nothing to anyone; reason is therefore essential to communication.

Indeed, one cannot even do away with reason unreasonably. To deny reason, one must first assume it, as Frame pointed out above.

Secondly, I am presupposing the validity of language as a means of expressing truth.

There is a contemporary view of language that claims that language is incapable of conveying truth about God. Indeed, some linguists go so far as to say that language cannot be true at all, because of the discrepancy between the word and the object. But there is an immediate problem with this proposition. If we say, “Language cannot convey truth,” then we must ask, is that a true statement? If it is a true statement, then it is false, for it has just done what it said could not be done. And if it is false, on the other hand, then it is eliminated.

So language can convey truth; if it could not people would not talk, because it would be practically meaningless to do so. But what about God-talk? Is that, perhaps meaningless?

David Hume, the skeptical empiricist, was convinced that God-talk is non-sense. Geisler writes concerning his principle,

According to this principle, a statement, to be meaningful, must either be true by definition, (such as “all triangles have three sides”) or else it must be verifiable by one or more of the five senses. The principle, of course, proved to be too narrow (since it eliminated even some scientific statements) and had to be revised. But the conclusion reached by Ayer and other semantical atheists after him is still with us, namely that all God-talk is meaningless.”

 

This is also the basic idea of the logical positivist. But how do we answer it? It is true that much God’-talk cannot be verified, or falsified, by the senses. Is it therefore meaningless?

We must realize that God-talk is a language of presupposition. And as we said before, presupposition resists falsification. Indeed, the presuppositions of the logical positivist (the validity of logic, and the senses) cannot be empirically tested, and. so are non-sense by their own standard!

Obviously, God-talk is valid when viewed in that light. In fact, the idea that language is useless is based on the presupposition that language evolved. We presuppose, rather, that language was given to man by God, and is therefore meaningful. It cannot convey all there is to know about God, but it can express something about God validly and truthfully.

Even though the argument of this paper is not based on inerrancy, there can be no question that it is a presupposition that will color the content of the paper, and so I include it as my third presupposition. Some may feel that this is not truly a presupposition, since it seems to be arguable without circularity, but in reality it is not. Let us follow the argument closely. Warfield gives the basis of the doctrine clearly.

We believe this doctrine of the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures primarily because it is the doctrine which Christ and his apostles believed, and which they have taught to us. It may sometimes seem difficult to take our stand frankly by the side of Christ and his apostles. It will always be found safe.

In the same vein, Montgomery says, “Logically, if the Bible is not inerrant, though Jesus thought it was, He can hardly be the incarnate God He claimed to be and for whom the same claims are made by his apostles.”

I believe that the evidence from Scripture that Christ did believe in inerrancy has been adequately given by other writers, but we may cite, for example, Matt. 5:18, and Luke 14:17, or Matt. 22:43, demonstrating that Christ argued the very words of the Psalm. But one might say, “You are taking your evidence that Christ believed in inerrancy of Scripture from Scripture, and must therefore presuppose it’s inerrancy, since if it is not inerrant, then it may be in error at the points of Christ’s view of Scripture.” I must respond, that is correct. Thus, inerrancy is a presupposition, howbeit, I believe, a valid one.

Finally, a point that is more of a clarification than a presupposition. We must differentiate between a system of hermeneutics, and a statement regarding the nature of Scripture. Some, for example, have argued against inerrancy, saying that the Bible does not speak with scientific accuracy, i.e. that it often rounds numbers, etc. Now, that may be a sound principle of interpretation, or it may not, but it has nothing to say about whether the Bible is inerrant or not. In fact, it more supports inerrancy than otherwise. Inerrancy is a presupposition which hermeneutics must take into account. Parker expresses this very lucidly in his article, Encountering Present-day views of Scripture.

Though the confession of inerrancy does not help us to make the literary judgments that interpretation involves, it commits us in advance to harmonize and integrate all that we find Scripture teaching, without remainder, and so makes possible a theological grasp of Christianity that is altogether believing and altogether obedient.

There are other presuppositions that it might be useful to the reader to know, but I think most would be summed up adequately by saying that I hold a Theistic World View.

As to the scope of this paper, I am not attempting to defend the doctrine of inerrancy, or even of inspiration. I am only seeking to establish my thesis. I shall begin with a short historical analysis of the concept of truth, and show how views of truth have changed through the past centuries. I will then seek to give a method of building a view of truth, and for testing such views. I will show how the modern views of truth are inadequate, and. why the classic view of truth did not satisfy.

All this is to lay the groundwork for a discussion of authority, because authority is ultimately based on truth. I will describe two kinds of authority, showing the adequacy of one, and the inadequacy of the other.

I will then give the major views of Scripture that various errantists have used in an attempt to preserve an adequate authority for Scripture, and I will show why they cannot do so. In conclusion, I will show how inerrancy does provide an adequate authority.

 

I. A short historical analysis of the concept of truth

The classic view of truth is two-fold. First, truth cannot be contradictory (i.e. A cannot at the same time be non-A), and second, it must correspond with reality. This idea of truth assures two things. First, it assures that truth is a unity, for if a truth cannot be contradictory and still be true, then it follows that a truth from the realm of, say, physics cannot contradict a truth from the realm of biology, or one of them is not true. Or, a truth from the realm of history cannot contradict a truth from the realm of theology, or nature, and so on. So if the law of non-contradiction is valid, then there must be a unity to truth, and if the unifying factor can be discovered, all truth can be correlated.

Secondly, it assures that truth will be objective, for it must correspond to reality. That does not, of course, mean that every real proposition is true. A proposition may be a real proposition and yet not be in line with reality (i.e. a lie). Thus, a true proposition about a proposition that does not line up with reality is “that is a lie,” because that lines up with the reality of the falsity of the first proposition.

Neither does this do away with the validity of subjective or relative truth, because both are actually objective assessments of limited or comparative facts. For example, if a person says, “Spinach is good,” that subjective statement may be objectively true as it pertains to that person if in fact he really likes spinach, or thinks that spinach is good even if he does not like it. If so, it is a valid subjective truth, and it is also objectively true as regards that person.

The classical pagan philosophers were unable to correlate all truth, because they lacked. the unifying factor, i.e. the theistic God. The apostles possessed the unifying factor, and were able to build a valid epistemology that could account for both general principles and particular incidents. But with Thomas Aquinas that began to change. He believed that there was some good in the human intellect, that it was not totally depraved.

Bacon followed his lead. Geisler says of him,

After tearing down the “idols” of the old deductive method of discovering truth, Bacon argued that “the best demonstration by far is experience.” The inductive method, he said, is the true way to interpret nature. One can understand how Bacon could consider inductive logic a valid method for scientific inquiry, but he went far beyond reasonable bounds when he claimed universal applicability for his method.

This means that every general principle had to be derived from experience-able details. The fact that he was assuming a general principle a priori (i.e. that reason is capable of interpreting man’s experiences) did not seem to occur to him.

But what would he do with God? For God could not be discovered inductively. Again from Geisler:

For Bacon and even more clearly for Hobbes who followed him, the Bible serves a religious and evocative function -- it leads us to honor and obey God but does not make cognitive truth claims about God nor affirmations about the physical universe.

What Bacon and Hobbes had done, whether or not they realized it, was to deny either non-contradiction or else the truth of theology. Thus they set the groundwork for the destruction of the unity of truth. For Hobbes, religion is absurd, and must be accepted by blind faith. But why accept it if it is not true? And if it is true, you have two kinds of truth that are contradictory! Unity is destroyed, and essentially, non-contradiction is destroyed.

Immanuel Kant also contributed to the loss of unity. He was an agnostic, and taught that we cannot know, only perceive. We can know the “thing-to-me,” (phenomenal) but not the “thing-in-itself” (noumenal). This gulf is impassible by the nature of knowing (i.e. as Bacon taught it). Although he did not deny objective truth, he said we cannot know it. Facts have nothing to do with values, because facts are what we perceive, values are what are real. So perceptions, in his thinking, are objective, realities subjective.

Kierkegaard followed Kant, also making a fact/value dichotomy, but distinguishing between the factual or propositional and. the personal. The two were unrelated. God is beyond proof, the doctrines of God and of inspiration are unfalsifiable, because totally divorced from reason. God then becomes practically subjective. He can only be known by faith, whereas facts are known by reason. So we have the same dichotomy between theological Truth and. natural truth.

It is interesting that Rogers and McKim attribute this same dichotomy to Calvin:

Calvin did not wish to substitute theology for philosophy. Each had. its own appropriate realm -- theology for matters of salvation and the life of faith, and philosophy for matters of worldly wisdom and practice.

It is hard to conceive of Calvin as a modern man!

The third stage is a move to irrationality. Following Bacon’s lead, and moving from specifics to universals, man finally realized that he had to give up the rationality of faith, and theology, but not only that. Everything had to be irrational. Why? Because ideally all facts must be related to a system to be intelligib1e. But man found that facts are so varied that he could not find a system that would cover all of them. He despaired of ever doing so, and concluded that all facts are irrational and unrelated. Rationality is purely a subjective, pragmatic way of looking at things. It must be subjective, because (following Kant) I am the only person that I know exists. I perceive everyone else, and that means they are phenomenal and unknowable. And it must be pragmatic because “If factuality is non-rational, it is expected that rationality will be merely ‘practical’.” It is clear that we cannot live without reason, but if it is unreal, then it must be some make-believe practical system that we adopt to give ourselves security.

Not only does truth become subjective under irrationality, but the way is opened for humanism as well. If my own existence is the only thing I can be sure of, then I must make myself the ultimate reference point for interpreting my perceptions. As Van Til says,

That issue may be stated simply and comprehensively by saying that in the Christian view of things it is the self-contained God who is the final point of reference, while in the case of the modern view it is the would-be self-contained man who is the final point of reference in all interpretation.”

We will see later on what this does to authority.

 

II. An adequate test for systems of truth

If we are ever to arrive at some idea of what truth is, we must have a test by which we evaluate each view of truth.

The first thing we must not do is formulate a test that will, by definition, rule out any view of truth but what we want truth to be. For example, Hume argued against miracles by defining a miracle as something that never happens. If we accept that definition, then of course there are no miracles in reality, because as soon as something happens it is not a miracle, by the definition. Such an argument is not valid. It is a misuse of language.

An adequate view of truth must be able to account for everything; every fact, every observation, every feeling, every illusion. There must be nothing in the universe that is not covered by the system. The only alternative is to give up rationality, and we have shown in the introduction how difficult that is. We should not give it up until we have tried every possibility.

But how can we go about building a system of truth that will cover everything? I would like to suggest that we search for truth in the same way that the legendary Sherlock Holmes sought for criminals.

In the first place, we must not pretend to think without presuppositions. If we think we do, we are deceiving ourselves, and a self-deceived person will never arrive at truth. In fact, our system of truth, ultimately, is our presupposition. So what we really have to test are our presuppositions.

Secondly, we must not limit ourselves to any one way of thinking. Some thinkers have tried to reason from pure deduction, but have not been able to deduce all that is. Others, like Bacon, have tried to reason from induction only, but have not been able to put all their facts into any one system. But is it inconceivable that both methods of thinking could be used together? It ought to be attempted.

Thirdly, one must not rule out, a priori, any system of truth simply because it carries obligations with it, or would demand change of us. That is dishonesty.

How did Holmes operate? He took the facts that he had, and from them induced. several general theories. From these theories he deduced further facts that ought to exist if the theory were correct. Then he would begin to look for those facts. If they did not, in reality, exist, he tried a different theory, and tested it in the same way. At the same time, again inducing, if he discovered a fact that did not fit the theory, he altered or expanded the theory, or else dropped it, and continued on from there.

If we apply this method to modern systems of thought, we are faced with some grave difficulties. Both irrationality and subjectivism are out of line with our minds -- and our minds are part of what is there. Neither one can account for it. We find it impossible to think in a totally irrational manner. Both leave us with subjective truth, and. yet we cannot live with that either, for we are forever trying to persuade other people to think like we do, or at least thinking that they are wrong in the way they think. But if truth is subjective, then nobody is wrong, and. if that were true, we would not think that they are wrong. We are contradicting our presuppositions to suppose so.

Let us postulate a pantheistic world view. Can it account for all that is? Well, it says that all is unity. But is that all there is? Don’t we experience diversity? Ah, yes, but that appearance of diversity is illusion. But surely the illusion is something different from the reality? For if illusion and reality were the same thing, we would never know the difference. Pantheism cannot account for all there is.

Perhaps the universe is all chance. Will that explain all there is? From that premise, we would naturally expect the universe to be random. There is, in that view, no real cause and effect. Why should chance move in an orderly way? We never experience it so. But the world seems to be orderly, not random. And if all is chance, the universe should be impersonal. But that does not account for man, who at least appears to be personal. And if all is chance, why don’t we live that way? Why are we careful what we eat, what we do, etc? For if all is chance, then when I jump off a bridge, I never know if I will fall or not. Chance cannot account for all that is.

Perhaps someone would argue that the classic view of truth as objective and unified has not been able to explain all there is either. We would reply that those who did not find it adequate built it on too narrow a foundation. It can account for all there is, if one admits the possibility of a theistic God.

Working from the general hypothesis of a theistic God, one would expect order in the universe. And in fact, the universe seems to be orderly. One would expect some evidence of personality, and man seems to be personal. A correlation between man and his environment would be expected, and we find such a correlation. We would expect man to have a moral sensibility, and he does. We would. expect a correlation between man’s thoughts, and the place in which he lives, and man does tend to think in terms of correspondence.

We could go on and on. It is granted that an adequate application of this method is beyond the power of the pen, but it is also believed that if anyone will look honestly at the issue, he will see that as there are only a limited number of possibilities, and only one will account for all that is, it must be correct. And if it is, then we have preserved rationality -- unity and objectivity.

 

III. The question of authority

The next question confronting us is, what about authority? What is it? What constitutes an adequate authority?

The dictionary gives several definitions of the word. For example, “A citation (as from a book) used in defense or support of ones actions, opinions, or beliefs,” or “power to require and receive submission: the right to expect obedience.”

Both carry with them the idea of a control of actions and beliefs. Authority is the reason behind what I do and think. Authority is the “ought” of life. Perhaps authority is not necessary, in the ultimate sense of the word, but none the less, “no one ever dispenses with authority, one only relocates it.” Every man attempts always to show reasons why he is right, or why he did what he did, and if he does not, it is because he considers himself the ultimate authority.

J.I. Packer comments that “only truth can have final authority to determine belief and behavior.” The idea is that the “ought” says that I must bring my beliefs and behavior into line with what is true.

But why should I believe what is true? What is wrong with believing something that is false? To many, this question may seem absurd. Of course, it is stupid to deliberately believe a falsehood. But it is a legitimate question none the less. So again I ask, why? Because it is necessary for survival. I will not live long, physically if I refuse to live according to the physical reality of the universe. But even more important, I will not survive spiritually without living in harmony with the spiritual reality of the universe.

Not only does authority involve the demand that we line up with truth, it also involves how we discover truth. Everything we believe we believe on authority. We accept on authority that Julius Caesar was a Roman Emperor. Our authority is history, or more correctly, historians. Our authority for believing something may be another person, or a book, or our own senses, or our own reason. But we always believe by assuming the authority of our source of knowledge. We cannot know without authority.

 

Finally, authority must be as general as the class to which it refers. For example, human beings are all a part of the material universe. Therefore the realities of matter have authority over all mankind. Every man, to survive, must live in line with material reality. No one is exempt from the authority of the reality of gravity. Every unsupported body within the gravitational dominance of the earth falls toward the earth.

So a man needs two things; his authority must be able to tell him what reality is, and also how to live in harmony with the reality.

Authority is based on truth. Therefore since we have two basic concepts of truth, we have also two ideas of authority.

If, as many claim, truth is subjective, then authority is also subjective. The idea of subjective truth is based on the assumption that all that is real is in the subject. The material universe may not be real, nor other people either. All that I know is real is myself. Subjective authority says that the only reality I must line up with is myself, and that I myself can be trusted as the source of truth regarding myself. Now, if in fact reality only involves myself, then subjective authority is adequate. But if reality can apply to things other than myself, such authority is not adequate, because it does not account for all of reality. In fact, truth is not subjective, and this is illustrated by the fact that not even the subjectivists live as though it were. If they do, they don’t live. Even a subjectivist will get out of the way of a Mack truck, if he sees it. Why? Because he recognizes and submits to the objective authority of the laws of motion. Objective authority is adequate, for it accounts for the Mack truck. Subjective authority is not adequate, and the subject knows it.

Some would say that we need objective authority in the material realm, but that subjective authority is adequate in the spiritual realm.

More than a century ago, he [Schleiermacher] taught that the true source of theology was not the Bible but man’s religious consciousness. Thus the objective revelation of God in the Bible was set aside, and man’s subjective opinions were exalted to the position of authority.

Again, the only possible way to hold this is to assume that man is the only spiritual reality in the universe. If there is a God who is real, subjective authority cannot account for him.

It may be argued that objective authority is not adequate either, because it demands that I be in harmony with all of reality, and I cannot know all of reality. By this argument, I should not be surviving. This objection is invalid on two counts. Not all of reality is applicable to me directly and at all times. If there are no elephants where I live, then truths about elephants may not be applicable to me at present. Secondly, it does not take the theistic God into account. If he is the creator, then we can expect him to be in harmony with all of reality. And therefore, if we are in harmony with him, we will be in harmony with all of reality. That does not mean that we approve of all reality. The way to be in harmony with the reality of sin, for example, is to hate it, and expect it to be judged, finally.

In summary, subjective authority is not adequate, because it takes myself only into account. If there is any reality there, besides myself, subjective authority cannot account for it, and any attempt to do so is no more authoritative than anyone elses' attempt.

Objective authority, on the other hand, is adequate if the source is dependable and knowledgeable. Keep in mind that a source may be dependable and knowledgeable in a limited sphere, and so be adequate authority in that limited sphere, but remain an inadequate authority in a broader sphere. For example, our senses are a reliable source of objective authority, in a limited. sphere (the material) and when their frailties are taken into account (i.e. one must be tested against the other, for our senses may be deceiving; and their limits must be recognized). That the senses are a relatively objective authority is seen in the fact that by following them we manage to survive, whereas when they are impaired (i.e. as through alcohol consumption), non-survival increases. But our senses, on the other hand , are not an adequate objective authority for direct spiritual awareness.

 

 

IV. The search for authority in errancy

 

There are perhaps two main reasons why many evangelicals have repudiated the inerrancy of Scripture. The first is because of apparent internal contradictions. They believe that there are things in Scripture that do not harmonize; such as various dates, etc. The second reason is that they believe there are things in Scriptures that contradict the findings of science. Berkouwer tacitly admits this, when he says, “This has gone hand in hand with an increasing revulsion against ‘harmonism’ and ‘concordism’ phenomena which all too often advance a view of Scripture that demands too much of it.”

Stephen Davis says that the Bible should be authoritative for every Christian on all that it says on any subject until he comes across something which he judges that he, for good reasons, cannot accept.

What the errantists may not realize is that they had to shift their authority before they could assert that there are any errors in the Bible. If scripture is our absolute authority, then what contradicts it must be wrong, and contradictions within it must be apparent, and should be possible to harmonize with proper hermeneutics and further light. Only if I, a priori, admit that there are other authorities at least equal to Scripture, can I admit to errors in Scripture. This attitude toward Scripture is not in the least a necessary one. Better scholarship is constantly reducing the internal conflicts in Scripture, and science is a very unstable pillar to build one’s authority upon. It is continually changing its dogmas. For example, Scripture was once scoffed at for talking about the sun rising, (though every scientist, in everyday language, speaks of the sunrise and sunset). But now, with the advent of relativity, scientist say that it really doesn’t matter whether you speak of the sun going around the earth, or the earth around the sun; it all depends on your frame of reference, anyway. We have no way of knowing for sure which way it is. So old concepts of science are shown to be out of date, and if the Bible is allowed to change by every whim of science, it may be false today and true tomorrow.

Errantists have recognized that with their view of inspiration, Biblical authority was placed on a flimsy foundation, and have proposed a variety of theories to maintain the authority of an errant Scripture. But none of them are adequate to do so, as we shall see in the remainder of this paper.

In these systems there is bound to be overlap, as they all have some things in common, and a few things are common to all. This should be kept in mind as we proceed.

The first theory that we will examine is the theory of accommodation, or adaptation.

The basic idea of this theory is that God accommodated himself to humanity in the Scriptures in order to make them comprehensible to man, and in so doing, had to incorporate errors. It is often likened to a little child who’s father talks to him in a truncated language, accommodating himself to the child’s vocabulary and understanding. Pinnock uses this argument, claiming that it is not necessary for the Bible to be inerrant just because it is inspired, because God uses fallible human beings all the time to proclaim his word, and he accomplishes his purpose by it.

There are several assumptions of this view that should be pointed out. First, that the Bible errs because it presents things as they appear, rather than as they are. Second, the idea that if God accommodates himself to human language, he must err, because humans err. Thirdly, the idea that because the Bible emphasizes certain things, it may err in what it dots not emphasize. And finally, because it is written by men, it must err, because men err.

This view is often taken further, to say that God not only accommodated himself to human language, but to the Hebrew thought forms and to the contemporary culture as well.

An integral and practical part of the theory of accommodation is the separation of the “human” and “divine” elements of Scripture. Pinnock says, “Although Protestant orthodoxy confesses both the divine and the human element in the Bible, as it also does in Christology, it has been happier affirming its divine authority than admitting its human characteristics.” He says further, “The prime theological issue which became evident in our survey of options on biblical authority is the need to maintain with equal force both the humanity and the divinity of the word of Scripture.”

The idea of this dichotomy is that the Bible is the writing of men, written with their own peculiar literary style, their own backgrounds, viewpoints, world views, education, and so on as a foundation for that writing. It is contended that they must have erred, since their world view would be as erroneous as their contemporaries’.

 

In fact, there is a legitimate idea of accommodation. God did condescend to speak in human language. There is no other way for him to make himself intelligible to man. But it does not follow that language therefore must err, in that it is human. A father, in accommodating himself to a small child, does not necessarily misinform him, simply because he is speaking a child language. Although he may not be able to give comprehensive truth, in the sense of saying all that could be said, due to the child’s limited understanding, what he says can still be precise. Neither is strict precision always necessary, and when it is not needed lack of it is not a fault. I may, in everyday conversation, speak of the “five mile corner.” That is adequate and true, for in normal usage, nobody would expect me to say “five miles, three feet, four point zero zero one six three inches.” It would not mean anything to anyone anyway. Rounding is an accepted language procedure.

Young demonstrates that within the context of a Biblical view of truth there is room for crudity and roughness of literary style, including improper grammatical structure, variations of parallel accounts of events, discourses, etc. but not room for contradiction or deception. Phenomenological, anthropomorphic, hyperbolic, etc. forms of language do not negate or falsify truth.

Human language may err, but it does not necessarily do so. As to God accommodating himself to Hebrew thought forms, there is, of course, a nucleus of truth here. The Old Testament is written in Hebrew, in Hebrew style, and reflecting Hebrew thought. But although a language does reflect the thought forms of a culture, it is not bound to them. James Barr argues that it is an unsound linguistic procedure to make the supposed thought structure of a language group dictate the possible meanings of the words in that language. Although the language may reflect the thought patterns of a group, it can express truths not dominant in the particular thought pattern. It is true that to interpret correctly, we must be aware of such things, but that is hermeneutics. It does not follow that the Bible errs.

Again, it is argued that Scripture adapts to and reflects human culture, and. so must err. To put it more clearly, the Bible can be discounted where it touches on culture, because it was only reflecting the culture of the day, and that culture is not necessarily right. Of this idea Warfield says:

The fact is that the theory of ‘accommodation’ is presented by Mr. Stuart only to enable him the more easily to refuse to be bound by the apostolic teaching in this matter, and as such it has served him as a stepping stone by which he has attained to an even more drastic principle, on which he practically acts: that wherever the apostle can be shown to agree with their contemporaries, their teaching may be neglected.

It obviously does not follow that agreement with contemporaries indicates error, especially as it may be noticed that on many points the Bible counters current culture.

Perhaps the overall argument here is that the Bible, as a human book, must be subject to error, but that in it’s divine aspect, it is authoritative. This may sound reasonable, but three things need to be realized. First, because it is a human book, it does not necessarily err. Christ was human, and yet did not err. This we must hold to, for “had he been mistaken... the church could well ask whether any single teaching of Jesus on any subject (including the way of salvation) might not also reflect his sincere misunderstanding.” To postulate that Jesus erred is to destroy his authority. Secondly, if the Bible errs because it is human, the Holy Spirit, as supervisor of the work, must still be held responsible for all errors. Let us imagine an executive secretary, who’s boss instructs her to write a letter, giving such and such information, and when it is finished, to bring it to him for his signature. She writes the letter, couching it in her own style, her own vocabulary, and so on. She brings it to the boss, he reads it and signs it. When he puts his signature on it, he is endorsing all it contains. If there are errors in it, he was responsible to catch them and have them corrected before he signed it. He is responsible. In the same sense, the Holy Spirit “signed” the Scriptures. He is responsible for every error. But, though it might have been error through ignorance on the part of the human author, on the part of the Holy Spirit, it is a lie, for he is not ignorant. If the Holy Spirit lies, his authority is destroyed. He cannot be trusted.

Finally, if the Bible is Human and Divine, and the human element admits errors, who or what determines what the errors are, and what is not error? Perhaps it would be advocated that Scripture itself witnesses to the difference. But what principle of Scripture would indicate how to tell its errors from truth? And should we find such a principle, what is to guarantee that the principle itself is not part of the errant matter, and so invalid?

Perhaps we will allow science, in the broadest sense of that term, to determine what is error and what is not. But in that case, science, not the Bible, has become my final authority; and besides, science, or at least scientists, are not infallible. How do I know that they are not in error regarding which parts of Scripture err? Is the authority of fallible scientists adequate for spiritual matters? Will I place my soul’s eternal destiny in their hands? Perhaps you would say that we must use our own judgment as to where science, or the Scripture errs. But now, I am become my own authority. Where do I get my guidelines for discernment? I cannot get them from Scripture; that is what needs discerning. I am left with a subjective authority, and we have already seen that such an authority is totally inadequate,

The concept of accommodation as the errantist present it leaves us without an adequate authority. In the final analysis, it leaves me alone with myself. I cannot know for sure, the validity of anything outside myself.

Before discussing the “limited inerrancy” view, I want to deal briefly with a concept proposed by Berkouwer, that is closely allied with accommodation. It is the idea of “time-boundedness.”

Moreover, the Word finds its way through periods having their own social structures and “cultural patterns” -- customs and concepts relative to the particular period. The Word of God does not remain aloof from this, but is heard in the midst of it. As a result, the time-boundedness of certain admonitions and prohibitions is clear to all. Various statements by Paul regarding womanhood and marriage constitute some of the most discussed illustrations of this particular problem of time-boundness.

The obvious idea is that because the Word is “time-bound” it cannot give objective truth in regards to such things as womanhood. Scripture reflected, not God’s mind, but the mind of the men of the day, in certain things. He gives a further example of this argument.

One should also mention Paul’s ‘argument’ that man was not made from women, but woman from man, and that man is now born of woman (I Cor. 18:8-12). It is evident that one cannot make an inch of progress by speaking of the “correctness” of such words in the abstract.

The implication of what he is saying is clear. Creation is an out-modded, “time-bound” concept (of course God didn’t really make Eve from Adam’s rib. That is only a story, a legend of the Hebrews), and so we don’t believe it. Because Paul’s argument is based on this “time-bound” concept, then it is also time-bound, and we don’t believe it either. But the upshot of it all is, that I can refuse anything in Scripture on that basis, for all of it was written more than one thousand years ago. Who is to determine what has been affected by time, and what has not? Ultimately, I must determine that for myself, according to what seems reasonable to me, and that means that my authority is again subjective. But a subjective authority is not adequate for objective truth.

Berkouwer claims that Paul himself supports the “time-boundedness” idea.

Besides, we note how Paul himself gives an indication of this situation and time-boundedness He emphatically answers questions which have been sent to him (I Cor. 7:1), and he considers something to be right “in view of the impending distress” (I Cor. 7:26).

Actually, this argues against the concept, for the fact that Paul goes out of his way to express the “time-boundedness” of this situation indicates that other situations are not time-bound, else why make a special case of this one?

The second theory that we want to discuss, and perhaps the most popular, is the “limited inerrancy” theory. Benedict Spinoza taught the basic tenant of this view -- that the Bible is authoritative in religious matters only. He carried it further perhaps then modern day evangelicals would, for he said that the Bible has nothing to say to reason; science is for the intellect, religion is for the will. Perhaps he was more consistent than some of his modern counterparts.

Francis Schaeffer explains this view as follows:

The issue is whether the Bible gives propositional truth (that is, truth that may be stated in propositions) where it touches history and the cosmos, and this all the way back to the first eleven chapters of Genesis, or whether instead of that it is only meaningful where it touches that which is considered religious.

 

Harold Lindsell says it this way: “The sum of it is this: Whatever has to do with the gospel in the Bible is inspired and can be trusted; whatever does not have to do with the gospel has errors in it -- it is not inerrant.”

And Geisler quotes Davis: “Davis says, ‘there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible,’ and adds, ‘I have found none on matters of faith and practice.

It is a simple enough theory on the surface, and it looks as if it might do the job of providing an adequate authority without total inerrancy. But if we examine it closely, we find that it has serious problems.

The first serious difficulty is that we must open up the question of canonicity, at least in a practical way. Unless God inspires error, then what is erroneous is not inspired. Even if it is, it cannot stand on the same level as that which is inerrant. Gerstner points out:

We realize that some who disagree with inerrancy are claiming inspiration for parts of the Bible, the so-called salvation parts. Very well, but then they cannot title their position biblical authority but only partial biblical authority. To add insult to injury to God’s Word, they cannot tell precisely what parts of the Bible are inspired. They say “salvation parts,” but they do not tell us where to find these or how to separate them from the uninspired, errant, non-salvation parts.

In his evaluation of Rogers and McKim’s proposals, Woodbridge comments,

The author’s description of the Bible creates for them the same kind of dilemma that neo-orthodox scholars before them faced: how to distinguish the infallible “central saving message” from the errant “difficult surrounding material.” This is a critical problem because Christianity is grounded in the dirt and dust of human history. Salvation truths are planted in the Bible’s historical discourse about things that happened.

Further, R.C. Sproul says,

Evangelical advocates of limited inerrancy are not expected to embrace Bultmann’s mythical view of New Testament super-naturalism. But their method has no inherent safeguard from an arbitrary delimitation of the scope of the biblical canon.

This is a very serious problem, and the answers that are given only raise more problems, as we shall see.

The second major problem is the old problem of unity of truth. The point is that if truth is a unity, then it is all interrelated, and if I believe error in one field of truth, it will affect my beliefs in all areas. Montgomery puts it this ways:

Regardless of how carefully the view point is stated, it necessarily involves a dualism between what is infallibly reliable in the Bible and what is not;... Not only does the Bible itself offer a monistic philosophy, of knowledge, but this viewpoint is necessitated by the very nature of the fields of knowledge themselves. Only the naive specialist really believes that science is qualitatively different from geography, or geography from history, or history from ethics, or ethics from theology.

This point cannot be given up without ultimately giving up rationality. If there is no integral relation between the fields of truth, then truth is not a unity. Jesus made this point, by arguing moral principles on scientific fact.

In short, we cannot separate science and Scripture. When the Bible declares that Jesus was born of a virgin, then it affirms a biological truth as well as a spiritual one. And when Jesus answered the question about divorce by saying, “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the creator ‘made them male and female’” (Matt. 19:4), He not only laid down a moral principle but made a scientific pronouncement as well. The scientific cannot be separated from the spiritual without doing violence to the spiritual.

Montgomery supports this idea when he says,

“Kenotic” (limitation) theories will not solve this dilemma. A meaningful incarnation demands an incarnate God who knows what He is doing -- on earth as it is in heaven -- and tells the truth -- on earth as it is in heaven. This is precisely the Jesus of Gospel accounts: the One who knows that He existed before Abraham, who condemns lying as a mark of the devil, and who so unites reliability in secular” matters with “theological” reliability that He can say to Nicodemus (and to us), “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believed not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things.

This last point of Jesus to Nicodemus would seem to clinch the argument, except that if you believe in errancy, then Jesus may have been in error when he said it.

We must agree with Montgomery when he says further,

The point does not require belaboring~ For practical purposes we may -- perhaps we must -- distinguish between “historical ,“ “geographical,” and “theological” statements in Holy Writ; but these distinctions are no more inherent to reality than the divisions between hand and wrist or trunk and branches. It is thus logically impossible to argue for an alleged perfection resident “spiritually” in Scripture while admitting imperfections in Scriptural knowledge viewed from a “secular” standpoint. Fallibility in the latter necessitates fallibility in the former --and this leaves one incapable of affirming a single doctrinal or moral teaching of the Bible with finality.

Is it any wonder then that those, such as the Roman Catholic exegete Loisy, beginning with “relative inerrancy” (the Bible erroneous only in matters of science and history) and pursuing vigorously the implications of this viewpoint, ultimately conclude “that the principle of relative truth is in fact of universal application”? 

It should be obvious that if we do away with the unity of truth, we are left with a subjective authority; for if truths can contradict, I am left to choose between the contradictory truths. As Sproul says, “How do we escape dehistoricizing the gospel and relegating it to a level of supra-temporal existential ‘decision’?”

It cannot be done, and we are without an adequate authority.

The third serious problem of the limited inerrancy view is that it places the inerrant material in the Bible outside of any test --it cannot be verified or falsified -- and faith becomes blind; a leap in the dark. R.C. Sproul says of this problem,

To those critics outside the fellowship of evangelicals, the notion of “limited inerrancy” appears artificial and contrived. Limited inerrancy gets us off the apologetical hook by making us immune to religious-historical criticism. We can eat our cake and have it too. The gospel is preserved; and our faith and practice remains intact while we admit errors in matters of history and cosmology. We cannot believe the Bible concerning earthly things, but we stake our lives on what it says concerning heavenly things. That approach was totally abrogated by our Lord (John 3:12).

How do we explain and defend the idea that the Bible is divinely superintended in part of its content but not all of it? Which part is inspired? Why only the faith and practice parts? Again, which are the faith and practice parts? Can we not justly be accused of “weaseling” if we adopt such a view? We remove our faith from the arena of historical verification or falsification. This is a fatal blow for apologetics as the reasoned defense of Christianity.

To do this makes experience the only test of truth in the religious realm. And if we do this, what have we left? This move was foreseen by T.H. Huxley, as Schaeffer points out:

T.H. Huxley, the biologist, the friend of Darwin, the grandfather of Aldous and Julian Huxley, wrote in 1890 that he visualized the day not far hence in which faith would be separated from all fact, and especially all pre-Abrahamic history, and that faith would then go on triumphant forever. This is an amazing quote for 1890 before the birth of existential philosophy or existential theology. He indeed foresaw something clearly. I am sure that he and his friends considered this some kind of a joke, because they would have understood well that if faith is separated from fact and specifically pre-Abrahamic space-time history, it is only another form of what we today call a trip.

 

Schaeffer goes on to say:

 

What I quoted in chapter one from T.H. Huxley applies at specifically this place. J.S. Bezzant, an old-fashioned liberal at Cambridge University, in Objections to Christian Belief also puts his finger on the problem of those who separate the portions of Genesis, and the Bible as a whole, that speak of history and the cosmos from those that speak of religious matters. In general, Bezzant speaks against historic Christianity itself, but suddenly he swings around and speaks to neo-orthodoxy. And he says this: “When I am told that it is precisely its immunity from proof which secures the Christian proclamation from the charge of being mythological I reply that immunity from proof can ‘secure’ nothing whatever except immunity from proof, and call nonsense by its name.” The neo-orthodox position is that the Bible makes mistakes in the areas of history and science, but we are to believe it anyway in the religious areas. The result is that religious things simply become “truth” inside one’s head -- just as the drug experience or the Eastern religious experience is “truth” inside of one’s head.

The moment I make truth untestable, it becomes empirical, and it is therefore subjective. If I argue from experience, how can I refute someone elses' experience, which may be different from mine? If Christianity can be said to be true on the basis of experience, then so can Buddhism — for Buddhists also have experience. We have only a subjective authority, and that is not adequate.

It is interesting to note that God gave his people an objective, factual test by which to check the authority of all prophets (Deut. 18:22), and Paul based the truth of Christianity squarely on the historical fact of the resurrection (I Cor. 15:17).

The fourth serious difficulty is closely related to the first. It is simply this. How do I determine what is religious truth and what is not? Lindsell very clearly states the problem.

Once limited inerrancy is accepted, it places the Bible in the same category with every other book that has ever been written. Every book contains in it some things that are true. And what is true is inerrant. Only two things remain to be determined, once this position is acknowledged. The first is what proportion of the book is true and what proportion is false. It may be 90% false and 10% true; or it may be 90% true and 10% false. The second thing that needs to be determined is what parts of the book are true. Since the book contains both truth and falsehood, of necessity, other criteria outside of the book must be brought to bear upon it to determine what is false and what is true. Whatever the source of the other criteria, that becomes the judge of the book in question. Thus the book becomes subordinate to the standard against which it’s truth is determined and measured.

It is clear that the language of Scripture itself cannot tell us which parts are “faith end practice” parts, and which are not. James Barr, himself no friend of inerrancy, makes this plain.

In other words, the sacred tradition of the apostolic church is never purely “religious language,” and still less so is the Old Testament as the sacred tradition of Israel. But the non-religious language of the Bible is of Theological importance just as the religious language is.

If Scripture’s language itself cannot clear up the question, then we must bring an outside source to bear on it. Commenting further on the Rogers McKim proposals, Woodbridge says,

They do say, however, that “ancient principles must be applied using all that we can learn about language and culture from the human and social sciences of the twentieth century” (p. 461). What this means in practicality is that the infallible salvation material can shrink or expand in accordance with the latest givens in higher biblical criticism, cultural anthropology, or findings from other disciplines. As the changing “givens of modernity” set standards for understanding Scripture for Bultmann, so they do for Rogers and McKim. In a word, the believer is obliged to give up the doctrine of sola Scriptura as the Reformers perceived it because his or her reason influenced by shifting “givens” becomes another authority. Our reason helps us to determine an infallible canon within the Scripture. Ironically, then, Rogers and McKim’s proposal which they package as one of “faith” before “reason” cracks the door open to the radical criticism of the Bible. Their unqualified fideism concerning the role of the Holy Spirit in confirming the authority of Scripture to believers is matched by an apparent unqualified confidence in reason’s rights to superintend biblical studies.

It is obvious that if you judge the Bible by an outside source, and that source is fallible, then in the final analysis, your own mind is the ultimate authority. J.I. Packer says:

He who makes his own judgment his grounds for rejecting anything in the Bible thereby logically makes his own judgment, rather than trust in God’s truthfulness, his ground for accepting everything in the Bible that he does accept.

This is seen quite clearly in Geisler’s quote of Davis: “Davis says, ‘there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible,’ and adds, ‘I have found none on matters of faith and practice.’” The words ‘I have found none’ give him away. It shows that even in the areas of faith and practice, he is on the lookout for errors, showing that ultimately he judges all of Scripture by himself as standard. Such a standard is obviously subjective. It can be concluded then, that if inerrancy is limited, we must apply subjective authority in discovering what is true and what is false, and such authority is inadequate.

The fifth difficulty is what has been termed the “domino theory.” Sproul describes this problem very well.

Frequently this concern is dismissed out of hand as being so much alarmism. But our doctrine of Scripture is not a child’s game of dominoes. We know instances in which men have abandoned belief if full inerrancy but have remained substantially orthodox in the rest of their Theology. We are also aware of the sad instances in which full inerrancy is affirmed yet the substance of theology is corrupt. Inerrancy is no guarantee of Biblical orthodoxy. Yet even a cursory view of church history has shown some patterns of correlation between a weakening of Biblical authority and a serious defection regarding the Wesen of Christianity. The Wesen of nineteenth century liberalism is hardly the gospel evangelicals embrace.

We have already seen, within evangelical circles, a move from limited inerrancy to challenges of matters of faith and practice. When the apostle Paul is depicted as espousing two mutually contradictory views of the role of women in the church, we see a critique of apostolic teaching that does touch directly on the practice of the church.

Geisler points outs:

Davis says, “there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible” and adds, “I have found none on matters of faith and practice.” However he speaks confidently of Paul’s sexism and even of Jesus’ mistaken belief about the time of His second coming.

Surely these are matters of faith and practice. Sproul says:

In the hotly disputed issue of homosexuality we see denominational commissions not only supplementing biblical authority with corroborative evidence drawn from modern sources of medical psychological study but also “correcting” the biblical view by such secular authority.

Obviously the domino theory is not “alarmism.” It is a real danger. That this domino effect exists does not prove anything as regards inerrancy, but it is evidence of the subjective nature of biblical authority with limited inerrancy.

A third method of trying to secure adequate authority for the errancy position is an appeal to church history. Rogers and McKim’s book is an excellent example of this. We will not deal extensively with this attempt, as it is so obviously a weak one, but it does deserve some attention.

In the forward to Rogers and McKim’s book, this statement is made.

To take seriously once more Calvin’s teaching on the Holy Scripture and its roots in Christian history and in the Bible itself means to restore the place of the Holy Spirit, not only as the inspirer of real, living human authors, but as the inspirer too of real, living human interpreters.

In the text of the book, Rogers and McKim say, “Calvin did not wish to substitute theology for philosophy. Each had it’s own appropriate realm -- theology for matters of salvation and the life of faith, and philosophy for matters of worldly wisdom and practice.”

Obviously the writers believe that Calvin did not believe in the full inerrancy of Scripture. Example after example of this could be given. Now of course, it can be argued with a great deal of force that this premise is false, and that the historic position of the Christian church is inerrancy. That is Woodbridge’s position, in his reply to Rogers and McKim. And Berkouwer, himself an errantist, seems to lend credence to the idea that the church did believe in inerrancy when he says,

There can be no doubt that for a long time during church history certainty of faith was specifically linked to the trustworthiness of Holy Scripture as the Word of God. Undoubtedly, Herman Bavinck is referring to this when he writes that there is no doctrine “on which there is more unanimity than on that of Holy Scripture.” From its earliest days the church held that Scripture is not an imperfect, humanly untrustworthy book of various religious experiences, but one with a peculiar mystery, even though the nature of that mystery was often a point of controversy.

But supposing it should be proven that the reformers, and the church fathers did believe the Bible to be errant. That would not make it true, for the church is not infallible. If it were, we would not need Scripture. If orthodoxy is false, let us by all means forsake orthodoxy. The reformers did, when they defied the authority of Rome. So the argument from church history is an extremely weak one.

The fourth attempt at retaining authority while holding to an errant Scripture is the view of neo-orthodoxy. It may be true that evangelicals today do not hold to neo-orthodoxy, but many are proposing a doctrine of Scripture that has varying degrees of similarity to the neo-orthodox position on Scripture, and therefore, it must be examined.

Although Karl Barth is considered the father of neo-orthodoxy, we need to go back to Soren Kierkegaard to find it’s real roots, for neo-orthodoxy is a form of religious existentialism.

Of Kierkegaard’s philosophy Geisler says, “Truth is a subjective encounter with God for which one has no good reason but which one must appropriate by a passionate ‘leap’ of faith. Indeed, Kierkegaard taught that all truth is subjective. He elevated faith as opposed to reason, and taught that there must be no reason for faith, because faith with a factual basis isn’t really faith. He said that the true object of faith was a paradox, not a fact. Truth is a subjective experience.

Nygren says, “Lessing constantly emphasized the search for the truth rather than the results of the search,” and that this was with Kierkegaard’s approval.

We find in Barth the same concept. Barth also finds truth in paradox. For him, there is no certain “yes” or “no”, but rather truth is in the tension between the two; certainty then becomes the greatest enemy of truth, because that tension must be maintained if the search for truth is to go on. In other words, truth is not something that you can know , only an experience you have in the midst of the throes of the dilemma between “yes” and “no.” This philosophy carries into the Bible as well. To Barth, the Bible is “through and through dialectic.”

What then is the neo-orthodox idea of the Bible? To them the Bible is not the Word of God, but it witnesses too the Word of God. It is myth, which illustrates to mens' mind truth, but truth that is not true until he recognizes it as such. It is not propositional truth, but emotional truth.

Barth says:

The Bible is the literary monument of an ancient racial religion and of a Hellenistic cultus religion of the Near East. A human document like any other, it can lay no a priori dogmatic claim to special attention and consideration. This judgment, being announced by every tongue and believed in every territory, we may take for granted today.

To him, it was not God, but Moses who created the law. “Why was it that Moses was able to create a law which for purity and humanity puts us moderns only to shame?”

The Genesis accounts of creation “are not at all an academic account of our beginnings. They are a powerful sermon (almost a song) that celebrate God’s power and glory over all the elements and objects of the universe which Israel’s neighbors falsely worshiped.” He says further, “For the same reason the Biblical idea of the creation is never expended into a cosmogony. It is intended for a solemn marking of the distance between the cosmos and the Creator, and precisely not for a metaphysical explanation of the World.”

For Barth, God is so separate from his creation that there is no positive contact between the two. There is no possibility of a human and divine coming together, so the Bible is purely human. God cannot serve. He must rule. He must himself grasp, seize, manage, use. He can satisfy no other needs than his own. He is not in another world over against this one; he submerges all of this in the other. He is not a thing among other things, but the Wholly Other, the infinite aggregate of all merely relative others.”

God is so far removed that objective, propositional communication to us is impossible. Barth complains that “instead of being the document of the axiomatic, the Bible tends to become to us a document of objective historical information.”

The Bible is faulty in its morals:

Abraham, for instance, as the highest proof of his faith desires to sacrifice his son to God; Jacob wins the birthright by a refined deception of his blind father; Elijah slays the four hundred and fifty priests of Baal by the brook Kishon. Are these exactly praiseworthy examples?

Van Til tells us,

In practice for Brunner ... the Bible cannot teach anything about the “phenomenal world.” According to the critical principle adopted in earlier works and assumed in the present one, the phenomenal world is the world of impersonal forces. And revelation is said to deal with the world of “personal encounter”.

Packer says that “the Bible that is thought of as man’s testament of religious feeling, self-understanding, and ethical inklings is not really the same book as the Bible that is received as God’s testimony to himself,” expressing the neo-orthodox view as contrasted with his own.

So basically the Bible is a human book, faulty, inaccurate, mythological, not proposing propositional truth, a record of religious feelings. What then has become of God’s Word?

It would be false to say that the neo-orthodox do not believe that there are propositions in Scripture; only that the propositions are not true. Indeed with existentialism, a proposition cannot be true, because truth is experience. But the propositions may point to truth.

Propositions are merely pointers; and pointers can be effective whether they are true or false. Brunner states very clearly that a pointer need not be true. Even a false proposition points, because God is free from the limitations of abstract truth and can reveal himself in false statements as easily as in true.

For the neo-orthodox, “The word of God is within the Bible.” 

That is not to say that parts of the Bible are the Word of God, and parts of it are not. Rather all of the Bible, whether true or false, may be the Word of God, if it reveals God to me. If it does not, then it is not the Word of God. The Bible is not true, it becomes true. “With this conscious reservation, that we are saying something that we do not know, that is true only when it becomes true, let the page now be turned, and the Bible’s final suggestion be taken up (as a suggestion!).”

The Bible cannot command -- it is not knowable; it becomes true, but truth cannot be known. Indeed, one could almost say that in reality, the Word of God is not in the Bible, but rather in us, and the Bible stimulates us to find it there. The Word of God is a “Mysterium tremendum that draws the men of the Bible before our eyes out and on to the edge of all experience, thought, and action, to the edge of time and history, and impels them to attempt to leap off into the air, where obviously no man can stand.” Here is the existential leap of faith -- no knowing, only believing.

In fact, the Word of God, and God himself ultimately become one. “We are asked to drop all metaphysics once and for all. When speaking of God’s transcendence we are not to think of some being existing in self-contained form prior to his relation to man. God is identical with his revelation.”

Such is the Word of God to the neo-orthodox. It is vague, mysterious, unknowable, never certain. In the paradox of Scripture, in the midst of its absurdity, one finds God in experience, in the midst of tension. Such an experience cannot really be communicated, and indeed no two will be alike.

So where is biblical authority in all this? Why do we believe? That is the crucial question.

It must surely be obvious that in a system where truth is subjective, and any claim to certainty is regarded as “sin”, that all authority must be subjective.

We find men everywhere who desire to acknowledge as from God only such Scriptures as ‘find them,” -- who cast the clear objective enunciation of God’s will to the mercy of the currents of thought and feeling which sweep up and down in their own souls.

Custer says that “every man’s mind becomes his own authority.”

It is true that the illumination of the Holy Spirit is often appealed to, to deliver from subjectivism.

Let it be said that both positions [Roman Catholic and neo-orthodox] invoke the Holy Spirit, the former as author of both Scripture and tradition, the latter as illuminating mind and conscience to enable each individual to formulate his personal understanding of Christianity.

We will deal more with this later, but let it be said here that this sounds good -- if it would work. But many people who all claim to be illuminated by the Spirit have contradictory views. You may say that the other person is not being led by the Spirit, really, and is therefore wrong. But on what basis are you going to argue that? If only by your own illumination by the Spirit, how do you test your own? How do you know yours is not false, and his is not true? And you cannot argue from Scripture, because it is in error, and illumination is supposed to be what clears it up. You have to decide who’s illumination is true before you know what Scripture is true.

Of course, in neo-orthodoxy it really doesn’t matter; both may be correct, for truth is not certainty, but experience. In any case, authority is subjective and therefore not adequate.

The truth is that the neo-orthodox enterprise of trying to re-establish the authority of biblical teaching on salvation while rejecting biblical teaching on Scripture is inherently inconsistent and self-contradictory; thus, all versions of neo-orthodoxy, like all versions of liberalism before them, exhibit a built-in arbitrariness that it is not possible to eliminate.

Though evangelicals may not follow neo-orthodoxy in its extreme, their borrowing from it results in the same subjectivity. Berkeley Michelsen, writing in Biblical Authority says, “In whatever way man responds to God, man establishes God’s authority.” Surely that is saying essentially the same as Barth did? God has no authority objectively -- it is in the individual personal response that authority is born. Such authority can only be subjective. Rogers and Hubbard also seem very near neo-orthodoxy, with the idea that Scripture is not all the word of God and that the real truth of Scripture is unfalsifiable and is accepted by what amounts to a blind faith.

Perhaps it should be mentioned in passing that many inerrantists who continually find “guidance” in Scripture apart from it’s contextual meaning are practicing neo-orthodoxy. Such guidance is in an unfalsifiable position, being unrelated to the meaning of the text, and essentially amounts to a claim of direct revelation from God. We must be careful not to base our actions and beliefs on such purely subjective grounds as this.

There is no escape of subjectivism on any level of neo-orthodoxy, and thus it provides no adequate authority.

The fifth major area of attempt at securing authority without inerrancy is by substituting a new view of truth. We said at the beginning of this paper that the classic view of truth was a correspondence view, or non-contradiction. Such a view says that truth is what corresponds to reality. And of course, error is what does not correspond to reality. This means that truth is a characteristic of propositions, not of reality. Reality is, truth is a statement that is in line with that reality. Reality is neither true or false. A lie can be real, but it is not true. In this view, a true person is one who is trustworthy -- he always makes true statements.

There is a new view of truth being applied today. It is an intentionalist view of truth. In other words, a statement is true if it accomplishes what the author intended it to accomplish. Now in this case, a statement might be true even if some or all of its content does not correspond with reality. On the other hand, if it does not accomplish its purpose, it is false even if all the information in it is factually correct.

Also, by this view, a person could be regarded as true, if he lives up to someone’s intentions for him. Under this view, the Bible could be true, even if it has factually incorrect statements in it. Minor errors are immaterial, because they do not hinder the salvation message from getting across.

This appears like a very convenient view of truth for the errantist to adopt. Let’s examine it a little more closely, however, and see some of its implications.

In this view a lie is, if not impossible, at least nearly impossible to discover. If a person tells something that is not correct, with the intent to deceive, then he told the truth, if in fact he did deceive. Thus, to be adept at deceiving is virtuous, by this view, and a person who is a great deceiver is the most true. Satan becomes, then, nearly as true as God, for he is the great deceiver.

In this view also, the 9th commandment does not make sense. “Do not bear false witness” would have to mean that everything you say must accomplish its purpose. But surely that is partly relative to your neighbor? If you intend to inform him, and he is a real idiot, you might be a liar no matter how hard you try, and you could not help but break that commandment.

Though there may be a measure of value in the intention view of truth, it is obviously inadequate. Courts of justice are a farce, by this view.

Errantists generally do not take this view to its logical conclusion, but let’s notice how they do make use of it, Berkouwer comments thus:

For if instrumentality is related to this one central witness, then the term “continuity” can legitimately by used in the doctrine of the God-breathed Scripture without falling into dualism. For this is in harmony with the purpose of God-breathed Scripture. One can never have a clear conception of the latter when it is “formally” approached under the category of correctness or conformity with reality; it must be approached in direct relation to the nature and content of Scripture. For the purpose of the God-breathed Scripture is not at all to provide a scientific gnosis, in order to convey and increase human knowledge and wisdom; but to witness of the salvation of God unto faith. This approach does not mean to separate faith and knowledge. But the knowledge that is the unmistakable aim of Scripture is the knowledge of faith, which does not increase human wisdom, but is life eternal (Jn. 17:3).

He claims not to separate faith and knowledge. Yet such is the inevitable result of his view. If Scripture truth is governed by its purpose, then it is intentional, and is clearly a different kind of truth than scientific truth; or else, if scientific truth is also intentional, then it is meaningless. Dualism is not avoided.

He says later on,

It is not that Scripture offers us no information but that the nature of this information is unique. It is governed by the purpose of God’s revelation. The view of inspiration that forms the basis of the misunderstanding of this purpose considers “inerrancy” essential as a parallel characterization of reliability; that is a flight of fancy away from this purpose.

There is one more basic fallacy of this whole view. There are only two options. If Scripture must be interpreted according to its goal, then one must ask the question, “How do I find the goal.” If it is in Scripture, then I must interpret Scripture to find that goal, and at the same time interpret it according to that goal, which means that I must presuppose it. If I find the goal outside of Scripture, on the other hand, then I have an extra biblical authority over Scripture. There is no solution to this dilemma. Either way, my authority has become subjective.

At the same time, this view also destroys the unity of truth, as we have already intimated. Hubbard says, “Error theologically must mean that which leads us astray from the will of God or the knowledge of his truth.”

There is a definite discrepancy here between God’s truth, and other truth. If Jesus Christ is the Truth (John 14:6), and if God is the final absolute upon which all truth rests, the creator and sustainer, then surely all truth is his truth, and no truth is unimportant, or unrelated to any other truth. A scientist who discovers new truth about the universe is doing God’s will, as it was given to Adam. If we divide truth, we have lost our basis for rationality.

Obviously, as well, the intentionalists do not hold their view consistently. For example, Hubbard accused Lindsell of false statements about Fuller. But to do so, he had to revert to a correspondence view of truth. They use intention to interpret Scripture, but correspondence when criticizing.

At other times they use their theory well for their own convenience. Woodbridge says of Rogers and McKim, “The apologetic variety of history which Rogers and McKim write will make some professional historians wince.” Yet surely, manipulation of history is consistent with their view of truth. If it accomplishes its aim of persuading people to their view, it is true, whether it is correct or not, factually.

Another area of subjectivity in this view that should be mentioned is that it makes truth depend upon the receiver. It might be consistently argued, by intentionalism, that the Bible is true for such people as accept it, and false for such as refuse it.

There are two more methods of attempting to retain authority which we want to mention only briefly, and more study needs to be done into these two areas. The first is what I call “spiritualism.” We mentioned it once before in dealing with neo-orthodoxy. It is the view that the Holy Spirit enables us to discern between the truth and error of Scripture.

There is no doubt that illumination is a very important doctrine, and deserves far more attention than it gets. Packer says:

Bible commentaries, Bible classes, Bible lectures and courses, plus the church’s regular expository ministry, can give us fair certainty as to what scripture meant (and we should make full use of them to that end), but only through the Spirit’s illumination shall we be able to see how the teaching applies to us in our own situation.

But is it adequate to insure objective authority in the face of an errant Bible?

Hubbard thinks that it is. He says:

What proof did the prophets need to test whether God was speaking to them? Nothing but the power of that word itself. What proof did the Thessalonicans need that Paul’s gospel was true? Nothing but the conviction of God the Holy Spirit. What proof do we need to know whether the Bible is the Word of God? Nothing but the Spirit of God speaking to us in Scripture.

Actually, Hubbard’s examples are unfortunate, because although the prophets did not demand proof, God told the people not to believe them unless all that they said came to pass (Deut. 18:22), and Paul commended the Bereans, because they did not accept what he had to say without test, but being more noble than the Thessalonicans, they searched the Scripture to test the truth of Paul’s gospel. But Hubbard is not the only one who appeals to the Spirit.

Dr. Cremer was called upon to write the article “Inspiration” in the second edition of Herzog’s “realencyklopedia” (Vol. vi, sub. voc; pp. 745 seq.) which saw the light in 1880. In preparing this article he was led to take an entirely new view of the meaning of Qeopneustos, according to which it defines Scripture, in II Tim. iii. 16, not according to its origin, but according to its effect -- not as “inspired of God,” but as “inspiring its readers.”

Pinnock also seeks his authority in the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

I have come to place greater confidence in the power of the Spirit to make the Bible come alive for believers than I did before ... . Stress on the Spirit is noticeably lacking in the literature of inerrancy. I think it reveals a preoccupation with apologetic certainty....

If one is an errantist, then the only way to maintain authority is to assume that the Spirit enables us to differentiate between error and truth in Scripture. It is not enough to say that he helps us to understand it, for that does not deal with the problem. That the Spirit teaches us to understand it is the inerrantist position. There is no point in understanding error. Indeed, it cannot be understood, really, because error is unreasonable, and what is unreasonable cannot be understood.

The problem is, then, who’s witness of the Spirit is authoritative? Supposing two of us hold contradictory views as to what is error and what is true, both claiming the Spirit’s guidance. Unless you have something to test against, there is no reason for anybody to believe you before me. The authority is therefore subjective, and for that reason inadequate; it is inescapable.

The final attempt is that of direct revelation. This is at present uncommon among evangelicals, though it is the rule among cultists. But it is the next logical step from “spiritualism”; in fact, spiritualism is a disguised form of direct revelation. In spiritualism, the Spirit gives me direct revelation as to the true canon within the Bible. In direct revelation, I am not restricted to the Bible.

Pache says, ”Almost every heresy and sect has originated in a supposed revelation or a new experience on the part of its founder, something outside the strictly biblical framework.”

This is the ultimate result of acceptance of extra biblical and subjective authority. It is inadequate for precisely the same reasons as is spiritualism, so we will not bother to further refute it, but refer the reader back to that section.

 

To conclude our investigation of authority, let us note that without inerrancy, we have no adequate authority;

If it is finally settled that Scripture can err, then the church and its theologians will learn that no source and no standard remains to solve further doctrinal problems that may arise.

When we have no adequate authority, our doctrines have no secure base.

Where this [inerrancy] confession is not made, Scripture will not all be taken with all seriousness, elements of its teaching will inevitably be ignored, and the result, as Lindsell and Schaeffer with others correctly foresee, is bound to be a certain diminution of supernatural Christian faith -- as we have seen in the various versions of liberalism, neo-orthodoxy, and “biblical theology” and as we must now expect to see in new forms in tomorrow’s Roman Catholicism.

 

I am saying that whether it takes five years or fifty years any denomination or para-church group that forsakes inerrancy will end up shipwrecked. It is impossible to prevent the surrender of other important doctrinal teachings of the Word of God when Inerrancy is gone.

It may be argued by some that inerrancy does not provide any more adequate authority then does errancy.  Pinnock argues, with many others, that inerrancy is really not valid, since we all admit errors in our copies. Surely this argument can be seen through, since with the matter of the text we have variations, and we are quite aware what they are. Most of the text is quite certain.

The second argument is more difficult to refute; namely, that Scripture cannot be understood until it is interpreted, and that any interpretation will be subjective, since it will be colored by our background, education, etc. Now it may be true that interpretation has subjective elements in it, but it does not need to be wholly so. If language is valid, then much of Scripture will be obvious without much interpretation. The more precise the language, and the more objective it is, the less interpretation is involved. Also, we have something to test our interpretation against. We believe in the validity of reason. We recognize that man’s reason is fallen and so tainted. But though we may not be able, by reason, to understand infallibly, when the Holy Spirit points out inconsistency to us (error) in our interpretation, we can recognize it if we will. We have an objective base to argue from, whatever material we must deal with subjectively. We have an objective authority, infallible in all it touches, and therefore adequate.Inerrancy and. Authority

 

 

 

 

With all the talk of inerrancy, limited inerrancy, and various other  questions about the Bible today, it may sometimes be forgotten that what is actually at stake is the issue of authority. It is not a question of whether or not we have an authority. Montgomery, in writing about Romanism, says:

Surely some final authority must exist, and it would. appear that it now rests in the New Shape Roman theologian and. his community of like-minded. souls. There is thus more than irony in the definition of infallibility in Dominican Maurice Lelong’s “New Church Lexicon”: “The scandal of Vatican I. Infallibility can only be collective and. popular.” Inerrancy can no longer focus on one book or one man; it is now corporate and. democratic! Does this suggest the profound truth that no one ever dispenses with authority - one only relocates it?

Authority always exists. The question is, is my authority adequate? Where is it located?

I contend that, although any view of scripture allows for some kind of authority, without inerrancy there can be no adequate authority for the questions facing us.

This is not presented as a proof of inerrancy. It simply does not follow that because we need an adequate authority, therefore we must have it. If inerrancy of Scripture is false, my contention is that we do not have an adequate authority, and if we do not have an adequate authority, we will have to live without one - or we can commit suicide, and. if the Bible is errant, we have no authority great enough to tell us we must not do so.

In order to present my arguments clearly, it is important to the reader know where I am coming from. Many writers today do not begin by establishing their presuppositions, perhaps with the hope that the reader will think they don’t have any. But no one ever thinks without presuppositions, and for this reason, every argument is actually circular. The logical positivist, who claims to work inductively from primary information, still has to presuppose the validity of reason, or his senses.

Not only do all arguments carry presuppositions, but presuppositions are very difficult to refute, because before they can be falsified they must be given up. They cannot be proven or dis-proven.

That is not to say, however, that no argument can be persuasive. J. M. Frame brings this out clearly.

A “proof” of, say, the primacy of reason, can be highly persuasive and logically sound even though, at one level, circular. The circularity is rarely blatant; it lurks in the background.. One never says, “reason is true because reason says it is.” One says instead, “Reason is true because one must presuppose it even to deny it.” The second. argument is just as circular as the first. Both presuppose the validity of reason. But in the second argument the presupposition is implicit rather than explicit. And the second one is highly persuasive! The irrationalist cannot help but note that he is (in many cases) presenting his irrationalism in a highly rational way. He is trying to be more rational than the rationalist - a contradictory way to be! He must decide either to be a more consistent irrationalist (but note the paradox of that!) or to abandon his irrationalism. Of course, he might renounce consistency altogether, thus renouncing the presupposition of the argument. But the argument shows him vividly how hard it is to live without rationality. The argument is circular, but it draws some important facts to his attention. The argument is persuasive though circular because down deep in our hearts we know that we cannot live without reason.

 

Again he says:

A Christian Theist, while conceding that the argument for God’s existence is circular, nevertheless will claim that the argument is sound and persuasive, for he devoutly believes that his position is true, and he believes that it can be recognized clearly as such. He believes that God made man to think in terms of this circularity, rather than in terms of some competing circularity.”

While conceding that my arguments will be ultimately circular, and admitting my presuppositions right from the start, as I believe any honest writer ought to do, I still believe that the arguments presented will be reasonable and, hopefully, persuasive.

 

Basic presuppositions of this paper

 

Firstly, in this paper I am presupposing the validity of reason, or more specifically, the principle of non-contradiction. Actually, anyone who ever sits down to write, or even anyone who converses with anyone, has in practice presupposed. the validity of reason, for without reason, all communication is nonsense, and it is foolish to attempt it. It stands to reason that if my propositions can contradict reality, and if I can contradict myself, then in fact I will have communicated nothing to anyone; reason is therefore essential to communication.

Indeed, one cannot even do away with reason unreasonably. To deny reason, one must first assume it, as Frame pointed out above.

Secondly, I am presupposing the validity of language as a means of expressing truth.

There is a contemporary view of language that claims that language is incapable of conveying truth about God. Indeed, some linguists go so far as to say that language cannot be true at all, because of the discrepancy between the word and the object. But there is an immediate problem with this proposition. If we say, “Language cannot convey truth,” then we must ask, is that a true statement? If it is a true statement, then it is false, for it has just done what it said could not be done. And if it is false, on the other hand, then it is eliminated.

So language can convey truth; if it could not people would not talk, because it would be practically meaningless to do so. But what about God-talk? Is that, perhaps meaningless?

David Hume, the skeptical empiricist, was convinced that God-talk is non-sense. Geisler writes concerning his principle,

According to this principle, a statement, to be meaningful, must either be true by definition, (such as “all triangles have three sides”) or else it must be verifiable by one or more of the five senses. The principle, of course, proved to be too narrow (since it eliminated even some scientific statements) and had to be revised. But the conclusion reached by Ayer and other semantical atheists after him is still with us, namely that all God-talk is meaningless.”

 

This is also the basic idea of the logical positivist. But how do we answer it? It is true that much God’-talk cannot be verified, or falsified, by the senses. Is it therefore meaningless?

We must realize that God-talk is a language of presupposition. And as we said before, presupposition resists falsification. Indeed, the presuppositions of the logical positivist (the validity of logic, and the senses) cannot be empirically tested, and. so are non-sense by their own standard!

Obviously, God-talk is valid when viewed in that light. In fact, the idea that language is useless is based on the presupposition that language evolved. We presuppose, rather, that language was given to man by God, and is therefore meaningful. It cannot convey all there is to know about God, but it can express something about God validly and truthfully.

Even though the argument of this paper is not based on inerrancy, there can be no question that it is a presupposition that will color the content of the paper, and so I include it as my third presupposition. Some may feel that this is not truly a presupposition, since it seems to be arguable without circularity, but in reality it is not. Let us follow the argument closely. Warfield gives the basis of the doctrine clearly.

We believe this doctrine of the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures primarily because it is the doctrine which Christ and his apostles believed, and which they have taught to us. It may sometimes seem difficult to take our stand frankly by the side of Christ and his apostles. It will always be found safe.

In the same vein, Montgomery says, “Logically, if the Bible is not inerrant, though Jesus thought it was, He can hardly be the incarnate God He claimed to be and for whom the same claims are made by his apostles.”

I believe that the evidence from Scripture that Christ did believe in inerrancy has been adequately given by other writers, but we may cite, for example, Matt. 5:18, and Luke 14:17, or Matt. 22:43, demonstrating that Christ argued the very words of the Psalm. But one might say, “You are taking your evidence that Christ believed in inerrancy of Scripture from Scripture, and must therefore presuppose it’s inerrancy, since if it is not inerrant, then it may be in error at the points of Christ’s view of Scripture.” I must respond, that is correct. Thus, inerrancy is a presupposition, howbeit, I believe, a valid one.

Finally, a point that is more of a clarification than a presupposition. We must differentiate between a system of hermeneutics, and a statement regarding the nature of Scripture. Some, for example, have argued against inerrancy, saying that the Bible does not speak with scientific accuracy, i.e. that it often rounds numbers, etc. Now, that may be a sound principle of interpretation, or it may not, but it has nothing to say about whether the Bible is inerrant or not. In fact, it more supports inerrancy than otherwise. Inerrancy is a presupposition which hermeneutics must take into account. Parker expresses this very lucidly in his article, Encountering Present-day views of Scripture.

Though the confession of inerrancy does not help us to make the literary judgments that interpretation involves, it commits us in advance to harmonize and integrate all that we find Scripture teaching, without remainder, and so makes possible a theological grasp of Christianity that is altogether believing and altogether obedient.

There are other presuppositions that it might be useful to the reader to know, but I think most would be summed up adequately by saying that I hold a Theistic World View.

As to the scope of this paper, I am not attempting to defend the doctrine of inerrancy, or even of inspiration. I am only seeking to establish my thesis. I shall begin with a short historical analysis of the concept of truth, and show how views of truth have changed through the past centuries. I will then seek to give a method of building a view of truth, and for testing such views. I will show how the modern views of truth are inadequate, and. why the classic view of truth did not satisfy.

All this is to lay the groundwork for a discussion of authority, because authority is ultimately based on truth. I will describe two kinds of authority, showing the adequacy of one, and the inadequacy of the other.

I will then give the major views of Scripture that various errantists have used in an attempt to preserve an adequate authority for Scripture, and I will show why they cannot do so. In conclusion, I will show how inerrancy does provide an adequate authority.

 

I. A short historical analysis of the concept of truth

The classic view of truth is two-fold. First, truth cannot be contradictory (i.e. A cannot at the same time be non-A), and second, it must correspond with reality. This idea of truth assures two things. First, it assures that truth is a unity, for if a truth cannot be contradictory and still be true, then it follows that a truth from the realm of, say, physics cannot contradict a truth from the realm of biology, or one of them is not true. Or, a truth from the realm of history cannot contradict a truth from the realm of theology, or nature, and so on. So if the law of non-contradiction is valid, then there must be a unity to truth, and if the unifying factor can be discovered, all truth can be correlated.

Secondly, it assures that truth will be objective, for it must correspond to reality. That does not, of course, mean that every real proposition is true. A proposition may be a real proposition and yet not be in line with reality (i.e. a lie). Thus, a true proposition about a proposition that does not line up with reality is “that is a lie,” because that lines up with the reality of the falsity of the first proposition.

Neither does this do away with the validity of subjective or relative truth, because both are actually objective assessments of limited or comparative facts. For example, if a person says, “Spinach is good,” that subjective statement may be objectively true as it pertains to that person if in fact he really likes spinach, or thinks that spinach is good even if he does not like it. If so, it is a valid subjective truth, and it is also objectively true as regards that person.

The classical pagan philosophers were unable to correlate all truth, because they lacked. the unifying factor, i.e. the theistic God. The apostles possessed the unifying factor, and were able to build a valid epistemology that could account for both general principles and particular incidents. But with Thomas Aquinas that began to change. He believed that there was some good in the human intellect, that it was not totally depraved.

Bacon followed his lead. Geisler says of him,

After tearing down the “idols” of the old deductive method of discovering truth, Bacon argued that “the best demonstration by far is experience.” The inductive method, he said, is the true way to interpret nature. One can understand how Bacon could consider inductive logic a valid method for scientific inquiry, but he went far beyond reasonable bounds when he claimed universal applicability for his method.

This means that every general principle had to be derived from experience-able details. The fact that he was assuming a general principle a priori (i.e. that reason is capable of interpreting man’s experiences) did not seem to occur to him.

But what would he do with God? For God could not be discovered inductively. Again from Geisler:

For Bacon and even more clearly for Hobbes who followed him, the Bible serves a religious and evocative function -- it leads us to honor and obey God but does not make cognitive truth claims about God nor affirmations about the physical universe.

What Bacon and Hobbes had done, whether or not they realized it, was to deny either non-contradiction or else the truth of theology. Thus they set the groundwork for the destruction of the unity of truth. For Hobbes, religion is absurd, and must be accepted by blind faith. But why accept it if it is not true? And if it is true, you have two kinds of truth that are contradictory! Unity is destroyed, and essentially, non-contradiction is destroyed.

Immanuel Kant also contributed to the loss of unity. He was an agnostic, and taught that we cannot know, only perceive. We can know the “thing-to-me,” (phenomenal) but not the “thing-in-itself” (noumenal). This gulf is impassible by the nature of knowing (i.e. as Bacon taught it). Although he did not deny objective truth, he said we cannot know it. Facts have nothing to do with values, because facts are what we perceive, values are what are real. So perceptions, in his thinking, are objective, realities subjective.

Kierkegaard followed Kant, also making a fact/value dichotomy, but distinguishing between the factual or propositional and. the personal. The two were unrelated. God is beyond proof, the doctrines of God and of inspiration are unfalsifiable, because totally divorced from reason. God then becomes practically subjective. He can only be known by faith, whereas facts are known by reason. So we have the same dichotomy between theological Truth and. natural truth.

It is interesting that Rogers and McKim attribute this same dichotomy to Calvin:

Calvin did not wish to substitute theology for philosophy. Each had. its own appropriate realm -- theology for matters of salvation and the life of faith, and philosophy for matters of worldly wisdom and practice.

It is hard to conceive of Calvin as a modern man!

The third stage is a move to irrationality. Following Bacon’s lead, and moving from specifics to universals, man finally realized that he had to give up the rationality of faith, and theology, but not only that. Everything had to be irrational. Why? Because ideally all facts must be related to a system to be intelligib1e. But man found that facts are so varied that he could not find a system that would cover all of them. He despaired of ever doing so, and concluded that all facts are irrational and unrelated. Rationality is purely a subjective, pragmatic way of looking at things. It must be subjective, because (following Kant) I am the only person that I know exists. I perceive everyone else, and that means they are phenomenal and unknowable. And it must be pragmatic because “If factuality is non-rational, it is expected that rationality will be merely ‘practical’.” It is clear that we cannot live without reason, but if it is unreal, then it must be some make-believe practical system that we adopt to give ourselves security.

Not only does truth become subjective under irrationality, but the way is opened for humanism as well. If my own existence is the only thing I can be sure of, then I must make myself the ultimate reference point for interpreting my perceptions. As Van Til says,

That issue may be stated simply and comprehensively by saying that in the Christian view of things it is the self-contained God who is the final point of reference, while in the case of the modern view it is the would-be self-contained man who is the final point of reference in all interpretation.”

We will see later on what this does to authority.

 

II. An adequate test for systems of truth

If we are ever to arrive at some idea of what truth is, we must have a test by which we evaluate each view of truth.

The first thing we must not do is formulate a test that will, by definition, rule out any view of truth but what we want truth to be. For example, Hume argued against miracles by defining a miracle as something that never happens. If we accept that definition, then of course there are no miracles in reality, because as soon as something happens it is not a miracle, by the definition. Such an argument is not valid. It is a misuse of language.

An adequate view of truth must be able to account for everything; every fact, every observation, every feeling, every illusion. There must be nothing in the universe that is not covered by the system. The only alternative is to give up rationality, and we have shown in the introduction how difficult that is. We should not give it up until we have tried every possibility.

But how can we go about building a system of truth that will cover everything? I would like to suggest that we search for truth in the same way that the legendary Sherlock Holmes sought for criminals.

In the first place, we must not pretend to think without presuppositions. If we think we do, we are deceiving ourselves, and a self-deceived person will never arrive at truth. In fact, our system of truth, ultimately, is our presupposition. So what we really have to test are our presuppositions.

Secondly, we must not limit ourselves to any one way of thinking. Some thinkers have tried to reason from pure deduction, but have not been able to deduce all that is. Others, like Bacon, have tried to reason from induction only, but have not been able to put all their facts into any one system. But is it inconceivable that both methods of thinking could be used together? It ought to be attempted.

Thirdly, one must not rule out, a priori, any system of truth simply because it carries obligations with it, or would demand change of us. That is dishonesty.

How did Holmes operate? He took the facts that he had, and from them induced. several general theories. From these theories he deduced further facts that ought to exist if the theory were correct. Then he would begin to look for those facts. If they did not, in reality, exist, he tried a different theory, and tested it in the same way. At the same time, again inducing, if he discovered a fact that did not fit the theory, he altered or expanded the theory, or else dropped it, and continued on from there.

If we apply this method to modern systems of thought, we are faced with some grave difficulties. Both irrationality and subjectivism are out of line with our minds -- and our minds are part of what is there. Neither one can account for it. We find it impossible to think in a totally irrational manner. Both leave us with subjective truth, and. yet we cannot live with that either, for we are forever trying to persuade other people to think like we do, or at least thinking that they are wrong in the way they think. But if truth is subjective, then nobody is wrong, and. if that were true, we would not think that they are wrong. We are contradicting our presuppositions to suppose so.

Let us postulate a pantheistic world view. Can it account for all that is? Well, it says that all is unity. But is that all there is? Don’t we experience diversity? Ah, yes, but that appearance of diversity is illusion. But surely the illusion is something different from the reality? For if illusion and reality were the same thing, we would never know the difference. Pantheism cannot account for all there is.

Perhaps the universe is all chance. Will that explain all there is? From that premise, we would naturally expect the universe to be random. There is, in that view, no real cause and effect. Why should chance move in an orderly way? We never experience it so. But the world seems to be orderly, not random. And if all is chance, the universe should be impersonal. But that does not account for man, who at least appears to be personal. And if all is chance, why don’t we live that way? Why are we careful what we eat, what we do, etc? For if all is chance, then when I jump off a bridge, I never know if I will fall or not. Chance cannot account for all that is.

Perhaps someone would argue that the classic view of truth as objective and unified has not been able to explain all there is either. We would reply that those who did not find it adequate built it on too narrow a foundation. It can account for all there is, if one admits the possibility of a theistic God.

Working from the general hypothesis of a theistic God, one would expect order in the universe. And in fact, the universe seems to be orderly. One would expect some evidence of personality, and man seems to be personal. A correlation between man and his environment would be expected, and we find such a correlation. We would expect man to have a moral sensibility, and he does. We would. expect a correlation between man’s thoughts, and the place in which he lives, and man does tend to think in terms of correspondence.

We could go on and on. It is granted that an adequate application of this method is beyond the power of the pen, but it is also believed that if anyone will look honestly at the issue, he will see that as there are only a limited number of possibilities, and only one will account for all that is, it must be correct. And if it is, then we have preserved rationality -- unity and objectivity.

 

III. The question of authority

The next question confronting us is, what about authority? What is it? What constitutes an adequate authority?

The dictionary gives several definitions of the word. For example, “A citation (as from a book) used in defense or support of ones actions, opinions, or beliefs,” or “power to require and receive submission: the right to expect obedience.”

Both carry with them the idea of a control of actions and beliefs. Authority is the reason behind what I do and think. Authority is the “ought” of life. Perhaps authority is not necessary, in the ultimate sense of the word, but none the less, “no one ever dispenses with authority, one only relocates it.” Every man attempts always to show reasons why he is right, or why he did what he did, and if he does not, it is because he considers himself the ultimate authority.

J.I. Packer comments that “only truth can have final authority to determine belief and behavior.” The idea is that the “ought” says that I must bring my beliefs and behavior into line with what is true.

But why should I believe what is true? What is wrong with believing something that is false? To many, this question may seem absurd. Of course, it is stupid to deliberately believe a falsehood. But it is a legitimate question none the less. So again I ask, why? Because it is necessary for survival. I will not live long, physically if I refuse to live according to the physical reality of the universe. But even more important, I will not survive spiritually without living in harmony with the spiritual reality of the universe.

Not only does authority involve the demand that we line up with truth, it also involves how we discover truth. Everything we believe we believe on authority. We accept on authority that Julius Caesar was a Roman Emperor. Our authority is history, or more correctly, historians. Our authority for believing something may be another person, or a book, or our own senses, or our own reason. But we always believe by assuming the authority of our source of knowledge. We cannot know without authority.

 

Finally, authority must be as general as the class to which it refers. For example, human beings are all a part of the material universe. Therefore the realities of matter have authority over all mankind. Every man, to survive, must live in line with material reality. No one is exempt from the authority of the reality of gravity. Every unsupported body within the gravitational dominance of the earth falls toward the earth.

So a man needs two things; his authority must be able to tell him what reality is, and also how to live in harmony with the reality.

Authority is based on truth. Therefore since we have two basic concepts of truth, we have also two ideas of authority.

If, as many claim, truth is subjective, then authority is also subjective. The idea of subjective truth is based on the assumption that all that is real is in the subject. The material universe may not be real, nor other people either. All that I know is real is myself. Subjective authority says that the only reality I must line up with is myself, and that I myself can be trusted as the source of truth regarding myself. Now, if in fact reality only involves myself, then subjective authority is adequate. But if reality can apply to things other than myself, such authority is not adequate, because it does not account for all of reality. In fact, truth is not subjective, and this is illustrated by the fact that not even the subjectivists live as though it were. If they do, they don’t live. Even a subjectivist will get out of the way of a Mack truck, if he sees it. Why? Because he recognizes and submits to the objective authority of the laws of motion. Objective authority is adequate, for it accounts for the Mack truck. Subjective authority is not adequate, and the subject knows it.

Some would say that we need objective authority in the material realm, but that subjective authority is adequate in the spiritual realm.

More than a century ago, he [Schleiermacher] taught that the true source of theology was not the Bible but man’s religious consciousness. Thus the objective revelation of God in the Bible was set aside, and man’s subjective opinions were exalted to the position of authority.

Again, the only possible way to hold this is to assume that man is the only spiritual reality in the universe. If there is a God who is real, subjective authority cannot account for him.

It may be argued that objective authority is not adequate either, because it demands that I be in harmony with all of reality, and I cannot know all of reality. By this argument, I should not be surviving. This objection is invalid on two counts. Not all of reality is applicable to me directly and at all times. If there are no elephants where I live, then truths about elephants may not be applicable to me at present. Secondly, it does not take the theistic God into account. If he is the creator, then we can expect him to be in harmony with all of reality. And therefore, if we are in harmony with him, we will be in harmony with all of reality. That does not mean that we approve of all reality. The way to be in harmony with the reality of sin, for example, is to hate it, and expect it to be judged, finally.

In summary, subjective authority is not adequate, because it takes myself only into account. If there is any reality there, besides myself, subjective authority cannot account for it, and any attempt to do so is no more authoritative than anyone elses' attempt.

Objective authority, on the other hand, is adequate if the source is dependable and knowledgeable. Keep in mind that a source may be dependable and knowledgeable in a limited sphere, and so be adequate authority in that limited sphere, but remain an inadequate authority in a broader sphere. For example, our senses are a reliable source of objective authority, in a limited. sphere (the material) and when their frailties are taken into account (i.e. one must be tested against the other, for our senses may be deceiving; and their limits must be recognized). That the senses are a relatively objective authority is seen in the fact that by following them we manage to survive, whereas when they are impaired (i.e. as through alcohol consumption), non-survival increases. But our senses, on the other hand , are not an adequate objective authority for direct spiritual awareness.

 

 

IV. The search for authority in errancy

 

There are perhaps two main reasons why many evangelicals have repudiated the inerrancy of Scripture. The first is because of apparent internal contradictions. They believe that there are things in Scripture that do not harmonize; such as various dates, etc. The second reason is that they believe there are things in Scriptures that contradict the findings of science. Berkouwer tacitly admits this, when he says, “This has gone hand in hand with an increasing revulsion against ‘harmonism’ and ‘concordism’ phenomena which all too often advance a view of Scripture that demands too much of it.”

Stephen Davis says that the Bible should be authoritative for every Christian on all that it says on any subject until he comes across something which he judges that he, for good reasons, cannot accept.

What the errantists may not realize is that they had to shift their authority before they could assert that there are any errors in the Bible. If scripture is our absolute authority, then what contradicts it must be wrong, and contradictions within it must be apparent, and should be possible to harmonize with proper hermeneutics and further light. Only if I, a priori, admit that there are other authorities at least equal to Scripture, can I admit to errors in Scripture. This attitude toward Scripture is not in the least a necessary one. Better scholarship is constantly reducing the internal conflicts in Scripture, and science is a very unstable pillar to build one’s authority upon. It is continually changing its dogmas. For example, Scripture was once scoffed at for talking about the sun rising, (though every scientist, in everyday language, speaks of the sunrise and sunset). But now, with the advent of relativity, scientist say that it really doesn’t matter whether you speak of the sun going around the earth, or the earth around the sun; it all depends on your frame of reference, anyway. We have no way of knowing for sure which way it is. So old concepts of science are shown to be out of date, and if the Bible is allowed to change by every whim of science, it may be false today and true tomorrow.

Errantists have recognized that with their view of inspiration, Biblical authority was placed on a flimsy foundation, and have proposed a variety of theories to maintain the authority of an errant Scripture. But none of them are adequate to do so, as we shall see in the remainder of this paper.

In these systems there is bound to be overlap, as they all have some things in common, and a few things are common to all. This should be kept in mind as we proceed.

The first theory that we will examine is the theory of accommodation, or adaptation.

The basic idea of this theory is that God accommodated himself to humanity in the Scriptures in order to make them comprehensible to man, and in so doing, had to incorporate errors. It is often likened to a little child who’s father talks to him in a truncated language, accommodating himself to the child’s vocabulary and understanding. Pinnock uses this argument, claiming that it is not necessary for the Bible to be inerrant just because it is inspired, because God uses fallible human beings all the time to proclaim his word, and he accomplishes his purpose by it.

There are several assumptions of this view that should be pointed out. First, that the Bible errs because it presents things as they appear, rather than as they are. Second, the idea that if God accommodates himself to human language, he must err, because humans err. Thirdly, the idea that because the Bible emphasizes certain things, it may err in what it dots not emphasize. And finally, because it is written by men, it must err, because men err.

This view is often taken further, to say that God not only accommodated himself to human language, but to the Hebrew thought forms and to the contemporary culture as well.

An integral and practical part of the theory of accommodation is the separation of the “human” and “divine” elements of Scripture. Pinnock says, “Although Protestant orthodoxy confesses both the divine and the human element in the Bible, as it also does in Christology, it has been happier affirming its divine authority than admitting its human characteristics.” He says further, “The prime theological issue which became evident in our survey of options on biblical authority is the need to maintain with equal force both the humanity and the divinity of the word of Scripture.”

The idea of this dichotomy is that the Bible is the writing of men, written with their own peculiar literary style, their own backgrounds, viewpoints, world views, education, and so on as a foundation for that writing. It is contended that they must have erred, since their world view would be as erroneous as their contemporaries’.

 

In fact, there is a legitimate idea of accommodation. God did condescend to speak in human language. There is no other way for him to make himself intelligible to man. But it does not follow that language therefore must err, in that it is human. A father, in accommodating himself to a small child, does not necessarily misinform him, simply because he is speaking a child language. Although he may not be able to give comprehensive truth, in the sense of saying all that could be said, due to the child’s limited understanding, what he says can still be precise. Neither is strict precision always necessary, and when it is not needed lack of it is not a fault. I may, in everyday conversation, speak of the “five mile corner.” That is adequate and true, for in normal usage, nobody would expect me to say “five miles, three feet, four point zero zero one six three inches.” It would not mean anything to anyone anyway. Rounding is an accepted language procedure.

Young demonstrates that within the context of a Biblical view of truth there is room for crudity and roughness of literary style, including improper grammatical structure, variations of parallel accounts of events, discourses, etc. but not room for contradiction or deception. Phenomenological, anthropomorphic, hyperbolic, etc. forms of language do not negate or falsify truth.

Human language may err, but it does not necessarily do so. As to God accommodating himself to Hebrew thought forms, there is, of course, a nucleus of truth here. The Old Testament is written in Hebrew, in Hebrew style, and reflecting Hebrew thought. But although a language does reflect the thought forms of a culture, it is not bound to them. James Barr argues that it is an unsound linguistic procedure to make the supposed thought structure of a language group dictate the possible meanings of the words in that language. Although the language may reflect the thought patterns of a group, it can express truths not dominant in the particular thought pattern. It is true that to interpret correctly, we must be aware of such things, but that is hermeneutics. It does not follow that the Bible errs.

Again, it is argued that Scripture adapts to and reflects human culture, and. so must err. To put it more clearly, the Bible can be discounted where it touches on culture, because it was only reflecting the culture of the day, and that culture is not necessarily right. Of this idea Warfield says:

The fact is that the theory of ‘accommodation’ is presented by Mr. Stuart only to enable him the more easily to refuse to be bound by the apostolic teaching in this matter, and as such it has served him as a stepping stone by which he has attained to an even more drastic principle, on which he practically acts: that wherever the apostle can be shown to agree with their contemporaries, their teaching may be neglected.

It obviously does not follow that agreement with contemporaries indicates error, especially as it may be noticed that on many points the Bible counters current culture.

Perhaps the overall argument here is that the Bible, as a human book, must be subject to error, but that in it’s divine aspect, it is authoritative. This may sound reasonable, but three things need to be realized. First, because it is a human book, it does not necessarily err. Christ was human, and yet did not err. This we must hold to, for “had he been mistaken... the church could well ask whether any single teaching of Jesus on any subject (including the way of salvation) might not also reflect his sincere misunderstanding.” To postulate that Jesus erred is to destroy his authority. Secondly, if the Bible errs because it is human, the Holy Spirit, as supervisor of the work, must still be held responsible for all errors. Let us imagine an executive secretary, who’s boss instructs her to write a letter, giving such and such information, and when it is finished, to bring it to him for his signature. She writes the letter, couching it in her own style, her own vocabulary, and so on. She brings it to the boss, he reads it and signs it. When he puts his signature on it, he is endorsing all it contains. If there are errors in it, he was responsible to catch them and have them corrected before he signed it. He is responsible. In the same sense, the Holy Spirit “signed” the Scriptures. He is responsible for every error. But, though it might have been error through ignorance on the part of the human author, on the part of the Holy Spirit, it is a lie, for he is not ignorant. If the Holy Spirit lies, his authority is destroyed. He cannot be trusted.

Finally, if the Bible is Human and Divine, and the human element admits errors, who or what determines what the errors are, and what is not error? Perhaps it would be advocated that Scripture itself witnesses to the difference. But what principle of Scripture would indicate how to tell its errors from truth? And should we find such a principle, what is to guarantee that the principle itself is not part of the errant matter, and so invalid?

Perhaps we will allow science, in the broadest sense of that term, to determine what is error and what is not. But in that case, science, not the Bible, has become my final authority; and besides, science, or at least scientists, are not infallible. How do I know that they are not in error regarding which parts of Scripture err? Is the authority of fallible scientists adequate for spiritual matters? Will I place my soul’s eternal destiny in their hands? Perhaps you would say that we must use our own judgment as to where science, or the Scripture errs. But now, I am become my own authority. Where do I get my guidelines for discernment? I cannot get them from Scripture; that is what needs discerning. I am left with a subjective authority, and we have already seen that such an authority is totally inadequate,

The concept of accommodation as the errantist present it leaves us without an adequate authority. In the final analysis, it leaves me alone with myself. I cannot know for sure, the validity of anything outside myself.

Before discussing the “limited inerrancy” view, I want to deal briefly with a concept proposed by Berkouwer, that is closely allied with accommodation. It is the idea of “time-boundedness.”

Moreover, the Word finds its way through periods having their own social structures and “cultural patterns” -- customs and concepts relative to the particular period. The Word of God does not remain aloof from this, but is heard in the midst of it. As a result, the time-boundedness of certain admonitions and prohibitions is clear to all. Various statements by Paul regarding womanhood and marriage constitute some of the most discussed illustrations of this particular problem of time-boundness.

The obvious idea is that because the Word is “time-bound” it cannot give objective truth in regards to such things as womanhood. Scripture reflected, not God’s mind, but the mind of the men of the day, in certain things. He gives a further example of this argument.

One should also mention Paul’s ‘argument’ that man was not made from women, but woman from man, and that man is now born of woman (I Cor. 18:8-12). It is evident that one cannot make an inch of progress by speaking of the “correctness” of such words in the abstract.

The implication of what he is saying is clear. Creation is an out-modded, “time-bound” concept (of course God didn’t really make Eve from Adam’s rib. That is only a story, a legend of the Hebrews), and so we don’t believe it. Because Paul’s argument is based on this “time-bound” concept, then it is also time-bound, and we don’t believe it either. But the upshot of it all is, that I can refuse anything in Scripture on that basis, for all of it was written more than one thousand years ago. Who is to determine what has been affected by time, and what has not? Ultimately, I must determine that for myself, according to what seems reasonable to me, and that means that my authority is again subjective. But a subjective authority is not adequate for objective truth.

Berkouwer claims that Paul himself supports the “time-boundedness” idea.

Besides, we note how Paul himself gives an indication of this situation and time-boundedness He emphatically answers questions which have been sent to him (I Cor. 7:1), and he considers something to be right “in view of the impending distress” (I Cor. 7:26).

Actually, this argues against the concept, for the fact that Paul goes out of his way to express the “time-boundedness” of this situation indicates that other situations are not time-bound, else why make a special case of this one?

The second theory that we want to discuss, and perhaps the most popular, is the “limited inerrancy” theory. Benedict Spinoza taught the basic tenant of this view -- that the Bible is authoritative in religious matters only. He carried it further perhaps then modern day evangelicals would, for he said that the Bible has nothing to say to reason; science is for the intellect, religion is for the will. Perhaps he was more consistent than some of his modern counterparts.

Francis Schaeffer explains this view as follows:

The issue is whether the Bible gives propositional truth (that is, truth that may be stated in propositions) where it touches history and the cosmos, and this all the way back to the first eleven chapters of Genesis, or whether instead of that it is only meaningful where it touches that which is considered religious.

 

Harold Lindsell says it this way: “The sum of it is this: Whatever has to do with the gospel in the Bible is inspired and can be trusted; whatever does not have to do with the gospel has errors in it -- it is not inerrant.”

And Geisler quotes Davis: “Davis says, ‘there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible,’ and adds, ‘I have found none on matters of faith and practice.

It is a simple enough theory on the surface, and it looks as if it might do the job of providing an adequate authority without total inerrancy. But if we examine it closely, we find that it has serious problems.

The first serious difficulty is that we must open up the question of canonicity, at least in a practical way. Unless God inspires error, then what is erroneous is not inspired. Even if it is, it cannot stand on the same level as that which is inerrant. Gerstner points out:

We realize that some who disagree with inerrancy are claiming inspiration for parts of the Bible, the so-called salvation parts. Very well, but then they cannot title their position biblical authority but only partial biblical authority. To add insult to injury to God’s Word, they cannot tell precisely what parts of the Bible are inspired. They say “salvation parts,” but they do not tell us where to find these or how to separate them from the uninspired, errant, non-salvation parts.

In his evaluation of Rogers and McKim’s proposals, Woodbridge comments,

The author’s description of the Bible creates for them the same kind of dilemma that neo-orthodox scholars before them faced: how to distinguish the infallible “central saving message” from the errant “difficult surrounding material.” This is a critical problem because Christianity is grounded in the dirt and dust of human history. Salvation truths are planted in the Bible’s historical discourse about things that happened.

Further, R.C. Sproul says,

Evangelical advocates of limited inerrancy are not expected to embrace Bultmann’s mythical view of New Testament super-naturalism. But their method has no inherent safeguard from an arbitrary delimitation of the scope of the biblical canon.

This is a very serious problem, and the answers that are given only raise more problems, as we shall see.

The second major problem is the old problem of unity of truth. The point is that if truth is a unity, then it is all interrelated, and if I believe error in one field of truth, it will affect my beliefs in all areas. Montgomery puts it this ways:

Regardless of how carefully the view point is stated, it necessarily involves a dualism between what is infallibly reliable in the Bible and what is not;... Not only does the Bible itself offer a monistic philosophy, of knowledge, but this viewpoint is necessitated by the very nature of the fields of knowledge themselves. Only the naive specialist really believes that science is qualitatively different from geography, or geography from history, or history from ethics, or ethics from theology.

This point cannot be given up without ultimately giving up rationality. If there is no integral relation between the fields of truth, then truth is not a unity. Jesus made this point, by arguing moral principles on scientific fact.

In short, we cannot separate science and Scripture. When the Bible declares that Jesus was born of a virgin, then it affirms a biological truth as well as a spiritual one. And when Jesus answered the question about divorce by saying, “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the creator ‘made them male and female’” (Matt. 19:4), He not only laid down a moral principle but made a scientific pronouncement as well. The scientific cannot be separated from the spiritual without doing violence to the spiritual.

Montgomery supports this idea when he says,

“Kenotic” (limitation) theories will not solve this dilemma. A meaningful incarnation demands an incarnate God who knows what He is doing -- on earth as it is in heaven -- and tells the truth -- on earth as it is in heaven. This is precisely the Jesus of Gospel accounts: the One who knows that He existed before Abraham, who condemns lying as a mark of the devil, and who so unites reliability in secular” matters with “theological” reliability that He can say to Nicodemus (and to us), “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believed not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things.

This last point of Jesus to Nicodemus would seem to clinch the argument, except that if you believe in errancy, then Jesus may have been in error when he said it.

We must agree with Montgomery when he says further,

The point does not require belaboring~ For practical purposes we may -- perhaps we must -- distinguish between “historical ,“ “geographical,” and “theological” statements in Holy Writ; but these distinctions are no more inherent to reality than the divisions between hand and wrist or trunk and branches. It is thus logically impossible to argue for an alleged perfection resident “spiritually” in Scripture while admitting imperfections in Scriptural knowledge viewed from a “secular” standpoint. Fallibility in the latter necessitates fallibility in the former --and this leaves one incapable of affirming a single doctrinal or moral teaching of the Bible with finality.

Is it any wonder then that those, such as the Roman Catholic exegete Loisy, beginning with “relative inerrancy” (the Bible erroneous only in matters of science and history) and pursuing vigorously the implications of this viewpoint, ultimately conclude “that the principle of relative truth is in fact of universal application”? 

It should be obvious that if we do away with the unity of truth, we are left with a subjective authority; for if truths can contradict, I am left to choose between the contradictory truths. As Sproul says, “How do we escape dehistoricizing the gospel and relegating it to a level of supra-temporal existential ‘decision’?”

It cannot be done, and we are without an adequate authority.

The third serious problem of the limited inerrancy view is that it places the inerrant material in the Bible outside of any test --it cannot be verified or falsified -- and faith becomes blind; a leap in the dark. R.C. Sproul says of this problem,

To those critics outside the fellowship of evangelicals, the notion of “limited inerrancy” appears artificial and contrived. Limited inerrancy gets us off the apologetical hook by making us immune to religious-historical criticism. We can eat our cake and have it too. The gospel is preserved; and our faith and practice remains intact while we admit errors in matters of history and cosmology. We cannot believe the Bible concerning earthly things, but we stake our lives on what it says concerning heavenly things. That approach was totally abrogated by our Lord (John 3:12).

How do we explain and defend the idea that the Bible is divinely superintended in part of its content but not all of it? Which part is inspired? Why only the faith and practice parts? Again, which are the faith and practice parts? Can we not justly be accused of “weaseling” if we adopt such a view? We remove our faith from the arena of historical verification or falsification. This is a fatal blow for apologetics as the reasoned defense of Christianity.

To do this makes experience the only test of truth in the religious realm. And if we do this, what have we left? This move was foreseen by T.H. Huxley, as Schaeffer points out:

T.H. Huxley, the biologist, the friend of Darwin, the grandfather of Aldous and Julian Huxley, wrote in 1890 that he visualized the day not far hence in which faith would be separated from all fact, and especially all pre-Abrahamic history, and that faith would then go on triumphant forever. This is an amazing quote for 1890 before the birth of existential philosophy or existential theology. He indeed foresaw something clearly. I am sure that he and his friends considered this some kind of a joke, because they would have understood well that if faith is separated from fact and specifically pre-Abrahamic space-time history, it is only another form of what we today call a trip.

 

Schaeffer goes on to say:

 

What I quoted in chapter one from T.H. Huxley applies at specifically this place. J.S. Bezzant, an old-fashioned liberal at Cambridge University, in Objections to Christian Belief also puts his finger on the problem of those who separate the portions of Genesis, and the Bible as a whole, that speak of history and the cosmos from those that speak of religious matters. In general, Bezzant speaks against historic Christianity itself, but suddenly he swings around and speaks to neo-orthodoxy. And he says this: “When I am told that it is precisely its immunity from proof which secures the Christian proclamation from the charge of being mythological I reply that immunity from proof can ‘secure’ nothing whatever except immunity from proof, and call nonsense by its name.” The neo-orthodox position is that the Bible makes mistakes in the areas of history and science, but we are to believe it anyway in the religious areas. The result is that religious things simply become “truth” inside one’s head -- just as the drug experience or the Eastern religious experience is “truth” inside of one’s head.

The moment I make truth untestable, it becomes empirical, and it is therefore subjective. If I argue from experience, how can I refute someone elses' experience, which may be different from mine? If Christianity can be said to be true on the basis of experience, then so can Buddhism — for Buddhists also have experience. We have only a subjective authority, and that is not adequate.

It is interesting to note that God gave his people an objective, factual test by which to check the authority of all prophets (Deut. 18:22), and Paul based the truth of Christianity squarely on the historical fact of the resurrection (I Cor. 15:17).

The fourth serious difficulty is closely related to the first. It is simply this. How do I determine what is religious truth and what is not? Lindsell very clearly states the problem.

Once limited inerrancy is accepted, it places the Bible in the same category with every other book that has ever been written. Every book contains in it some things that are true. And what is true is inerrant. Only two things remain to be determined, once this position is acknowledged. The first is what proportion of the book is true and what proportion is false. It may be 90% false and 10% true; or it may be 90% true and 10% false. The second thing that needs to be determined is what parts of the book are true. Since the book contains both truth and falsehood, of necessity, other criteria outside of the book must be brought to bear upon it to determine what is false and what is true. Whatever the source of the other criteria, that becomes the judge of the book in question. Thus the book becomes subordinate to the standard against which it’s truth is determined and measured.

It is clear that the language of Scripture itself cannot tell us which parts are “faith end practice” parts, and which are not. James Barr, himself no friend of inerrancy, makes this plain.

In other words, the sacred tradition of the apostolic church is never purely “religious language,” and still less so is the Old Testament as the sacred tradition of Israel. But the non-religious language of the Bible is of Theological importance just as the religious language is.

If Scripture’s language itself cannot clear up the question, then we must bring an outside source to bear on it. Commenting further on the Rogers McKim proposals, Woodbridge says,

They do say, however, that “ancient principles must be applied using all that we can learn about language and culture from the human and social sciences of the twentieth century” (p. 461). What this means in practicality is that the infallible salvation material can shrink or expand in accordance with the latest givens in higher biblical criticism, cultural anthropology, or findings from other disciplines. As the changing “givens of modernity” set standards for understanding Scripture for Bultmann, so they do for Rogers and McKim. In a word, the believer is obliged to give up the doctrine of sola Scriptura as the Reformers perceived it because his or her reason influenced by shifting “givens” becomes another authority. Our reason helps us to determine an infallible canon within the Scripture. Ironically, then, Rogers and McKim’s proposal which they package as one of “faith” before “reason” cracks the door open to the radical criticism of the Bible. Their unqualified fideism concerning the role of the Holy Spirit in confirming the authority of Scripture to believers is matched by an apparent unqualified confidence in reason’s rights to superintend biblical studies.

It is obvious that if you judge the Bible by an outside source, and that source is fallible, then in the final analysis, your own mind is the ultimate authority. J.I. Packer says:

He who makes his own judgment his grounds for rejecting anything in the Bible thereby logically makes his own judgment, rather than trust in God’s truthfulness, his ground for accepting everything in the Bible that he does accept.

This is seen quite clearly in Geisler’s quote of Davis: “Davis says, ‘there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible,’ and adds, ‘I have found none on matters of faith and practice.’” The words ‘I have found none’ give him away. It shows that even in the areas of faith and practice, he is on the lookout for errors, showing that ultimately he judges all of Scripture by himself as standard. Such a standard is obviously subjective. It can be concluded then, that if inerrancy is limited, we must apply subjective authority in discovering what is true and what is false, and such authority is inadequate.

The fifth difficulty is what has been termed the “domino theory.” Sproul describes this problem very well.

Frequently this concern is dismissed out of hand as being so much alarmism. But our doctrine of Scripture is not a child’s game of dominoes. We know instances in which men have abandoned belief if full inerrancy but have remained substantially orthodox in the rest of their Theology. We are also aware of the sad instances in which full inerrancy is affirmed yet the substance of theology is corrupt. Inerrancy is no guarantee of Biblical orthodoxy. Yet even a cursory view of church history has shown some patterns of correlation between a weakening of Biblical authority and a serious defection regarding the Wesen of Christianity. The Wesen of nineteenth century liberalism is hardly the gospel evangelicals embrace.

We have already seen, within evangelical circles, a move from limited inerrancy to challenges of matters of faith and practice. When the apostle Paul is depicted as espousing two mutually contradictory views of the role of women in the church, we see a critique of apostolic teaching that does touch directly on the practice of the church.

Geisler points outs:

Davis says, “there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible” and adds, “I have found none on matters of faith and practice.” However he speaks confidently of Paul’s sexism and even of Jesus’ mistaken belief about the time of His second coming.

Surely these are matters of faith and practice. Sproul says:

In the hotly disputed issue of homosexuality we see denominational commissions not only supplementing biblical authority with corroborative evidence drawn from modern sources of medical psychological study but also “correcting” the biblical view by such secular authority.

Obviously the domino theory is not “alarmism.” It is a real danger. That this domino effect exists does not prove anything as regards inerrancy, but it is evidence of the subjective nature of biblical authority with limited inerrancy.

A third method of trying to secure adequate authority for the errancy position is an appeal to church history. Rogers and McKim’s book is an excellent example of this. We will not deal extensively with this attempt, as it is so obviously a weak one, but it does deserve some attention.

In the forward to Rogers and McKim’s book, this statement is made.

To take seriously once more Calvin’s teaching on the Holy Scripture and its roots in Christian history and in the Bible itself means to restore the place of the Holy Spirit, not only as the inspirer of real, living human authors, but as the inspirer too of real, living human interpreters.

In the text of the book, Rogers and McKim say, “Calvin did not wish to substitute theology for philosophy. Each had it’s own appropriate realm -- theology for matters of salvation and the life of faith, and philosophy for matters of worldly wisdom and practice.”

Obviously the writers believe that Calvin did not believe in the full inerrancy of Scripture. Example after example of this could be given. Now of course, it can be argued with a great deal of force that this premise is false, and that the historic position of the Christian church is inerrancy. That is Woodbridge’s position, in his reply to Rogers and McKim. And Berkouwer, himself an errantist, seems to lend credence to the idea that the church did believe in inerrancy when he says,

There can be no doubt that for a long time during church history certainty of faith was specifically linked to the trustworthiness of Holy Scripture as the Word of God. Undoubtedly, Herman Bavinck is referring to this when he writes that there is no doctrine “on which there is more unanimity than on that of Holy Scripture.” From its earliest days the church held that Scripture is not an imperfect, humanly untrustworthy book of various religious experiences, but one with a peculiar mystery, even though the nature of that mystery was often a point of controversy.

But supposing it should be proven that the reformers, and the church fathers did believe the Bible to be errant. That would not make it true, for the church is not infallible. If it were, we would not need Scripture. If orthodoxy is false, let us by all means forsake orthodoxy. The reformers did, when they defied the authority of Rome. So the argument from church history is an extremely weak one.

The fourth attempt at retaining authority while holding to an errant Scripture is the view of neo-orthodoxy. It may be true that evangelicals today do not hold to neo-orthodoxy, but many are proposing a doctrine of Scripture that has varying degrees of similarity to the neo-orthodox position on Scripture, and therefore, it must be examined.

Although Karl Barth is considered the father of neo-orthodoxy, we need to go back to Soren Kierkegaard to find it’s real roots, for neo-orthodoxy is a form of religious existentialism.

Of Kierkegaard’s philosophy Geisler says, “Truth is a subjective encounter with God for which one has no good reason but which one must appropriate by a passionate ‘leap’ of faith. Indeed, Kierkegaard taught that all truth is subjective. He elevated faith as opposed to reason, and taught that there must be no reason for faith, because faith with a factual basis isn’t really faith. He said that the true object of faith was a paradox, not a fact. Truth is a subjective experience.

Nygren says, “Lessing constantly emphasized the search for the truth rather than the results of the search,” and that this was with Kierkegaard’s approval.

We find in Barth the same concept. Barth also finds truth in paradox. For him, there is no certain “yes” or “no”, but rather truth is in the tension between the two; certainty then becomes the greatest enemy of truth, because that tension must be maintained if the search for truth is to go on. In other words, truth is not something that you can know , only an experience you have in the midst of the throes of the dilemma between “yes” and “no.” This philosophy carries into the Bible as well. To Barth, the Bible is “through and through dialectic.”

What then is the neo-orthodox idea of the Bible? To them the Bible is not the Word of God, but it witnesses too the Word of God. It is myth, which illustrates to mens' mind truth, but truth that is not true until he recognizes it as such. It is not propositional truth, but emotional truth.

Barth says:

The Bible is the literary monument of an ancient racial religion and of a Hellenistic cultus religion of the Near East. A human document like any other, it can lay no a priori dogmatic claim to special attention and consideration. This judgment, being announced by every tongue and believed in every territory, we may take for granted today.

To him, it was not God, but Moses who created the law. “Why was it that Moses was able to create a law which for purity and humanity puts us moderns only to shame?”

The Genesis accounts of creation “are not at all an academic account of our beginnings. They are a powerful sermon (almost a song) that celebrate God’s power and glory over all the elements and objects of the universe which Israel’s neighbors falsely worshiped.” He says further, “For the same reason the Biblical idea of the creation is never expended into a cosmogony. It is intended for a solemn marking of the distance between the cosmos and the Creator, and precisely not for a metaphysical explanation of the World.”

For Barth, God is so separate from his creation that there is no positive contact between the two. There is no possibility of a human and divine coming together, so the Bible is purely human. God cannot serve. He must rule. He must himself grasp, seize, manage, use. He can satisfy no other needs than his own. He is not in another world over against this one; he submerges all of this in the other. He is not a thing among other things, but the Wholly Other, the infinite aggregate of all merely relative others.”

God is so far removed that objective, propositional communication to us is impossible. Barth complains that “instead of being the document of the axiomatic, the Bible tends to become to us a document of objective historical information.”

The Bible is faulty in its morals:

Abraham, for instance, as the highest proof of his faith desires to sacrifice his son to God; Jacob wins the birthright by a refined deception of his blind father; Elijah slays the four hundred and fifty priests of Baal by the brook Kishon. Are these exactly praiseworthy examples?

Van Til tells us,

In practice for Brunner ... the Bible cannot teach anything about the “phenomenal world.” According to the critical principle adopted in earlier works and assumed in the present one, the phenomenal world is the world of impersonal forces. And revelation is said to deal with the world of “personal encounter”.

Packer says that “the Bible that is thought of as man’s testament of religious feeling, self-understanding, and ethical inklings is not really the same book as the Bible that is received as God’s testimony to himself,” expressing the neo-orthodox view as contrasted with his own.

So basically the Bible is a human book, faulty, inaccurate, mythological, not proposing propositional truth, a record of religious feelings. What then has become of God’s Word?

It would be false to say that the neo-orthodox do not believe that there are propositions in Scripture; only that the propositions are not true. Indeed with existentialism, a proposition cannot be true, because truth is experience. But the propositions may point to truth.

Propositions are merely pointers; and pointers can be effective whether they are true or false. Brunner states very clearly that a pointer need not be true. Even a false proposition points, because God is free from the limitations of abstract truth and can reveal himself in false statements as easily as in true.

For the neo-orthodox, “The word of God is within the Bible.” 

That is not to say that parts of the Bible are the Word of God, and parts of it are not. Rather all of the Bible, whether true or false, may be the Word of God, if it reveals God to me. If it does not, then it is not the Word of God. The Bible is not true, it becomes true. “With this conscious reservation, that we are saying something that we do not know, that is true only when it becomes true, let the page now be turned, and the Bible’s final suggestion be taken up (as a suggestion!).”

The Bible cannot command -- it is not knowable; it becomes true, but truth cannot be known. Indeed, one could almost say that in reality, the Word of God is not in the Bible, but rather in us, and the Bible stimulates us to find it there. The Word of God is a “Mysterium tremendum that draws the men of the Bible before our eyes out and on to the edge of all experience, thought, and action, to the edge of time and history, and impels them to attempt to leap off into the air, where obviously no man can stand.” Here is the existential leap of faith -- no knowing, only believing.

In fact, the Word of God, and God himself ultimately become one. “We are asked to drop all metaphysics once and for all. When speaking of God’s transcendence we are not to think of some being existing in self-contained form prior to his relation to man. God is identical with his revelation.”

Such is the Word of God to the neo-orthodox. It is vague, mysterious, unknowable, never certain. In the paradox of Scripture, in the midst of its absurdity, one finds God in experience, in the midst of tension. Such an experience cannot really be communicated, and indeed no two will be alike.

So where is biblical authority in all this? Why do we believe? That is the crucial question.

It must surely be obvious that in a system where truth is subjective, and any claim to certainty is regarded as “sin”, that all authority must be subjective.

We find men everywhere who desire to acknowledge as from God only such Scriptures as ‘find them,” -- who cast the clear objective enunciation of God’s will to the mercy of the currents of thought and feeling which sweep up and down in their own souls.

Custer says that “every man’s mind becomes his own authority.”

It is true that the illumination of the Holy Spirit is often appealed to, to deliver from subjectivism.

Let it be said that both positions [Roman Catholic and neo-orthodox] invoke the Holy Spirit, the former as author of both Scripture and tradition, the latter as illuminating mind and conscience to enable each individual to formulate his personal understanding of Christianity.

We will deal more with this later, but let it be said here that this sounds good -- if it would work. But many people who all claim to be illuminated by the Spirit have contradictory views. You may say that the other person is not being led by the Spirit, really, and is therefore wrong. But on what basis are you going to argue that? If only by your own illumination by the Spirit, how do you test your own? How do you know yours is not false, and his is not true? And you cannot argue from Scripture, because it is in error, and illumination is supposed to be what clears it up. You have to decide who’s illumination is true before you know what Scripture is true.

Of course, in neo-orthodoxy it really doesn’t matter; both may be correct, for truth is not certainty, but experience. In any case, authority is subjective and therefore not adequate.

The truth is that the neo-orthodox enterprise of trying to re-establish the authority of biblical teaching on salvation while rejecting biblical teaching on Scripture is inherently inconsistent and self-contradictory; thus, all versions of neo-orthodoxy, like all versions of liberalism before them, exhibit a built-in arbitrariness that it is not possible to eliminate.

Though evangelicals may not follow neo-orthodoxy in its extreme, their borrowing from it results in the same subjectivity. Berkeley Michelsen, writing in Biblical Authority says, “In whatever way man responds to God, man establishes God’s authority.” Surely that is saying essentially the same as Barth did? God has no authority objectively -- it is in the individual personal response that authority is born. Such authority can only be subjective. Rogers and Hubbard also seem very near neo-orthodoxy, with the idea that Scripture is not all the word of God and that the real truth of Scripture is unfalsifiable and is accepted by what amounts to a blind faith.

Perhaps it should be mentioned in passing that many inerrantists who continually find “guidance” in Scripture apart from it’s contextual meaning are practicing neo-orthodoxy. Such guidance is in an unfalsifiable position, being unrelated to the meaning of the text, and essentially amounts to a claim of direct revelation from God. We must be careful not to base our actions and beliefs on such purely subjective grounds as this.

There is no escape of subjectivism on any level of neo-orthodoxy, and thus it provides no adequate authority.

The fifth major area of attempt at securing authority without inerrancy is by substituting a new view of truth. We said at the beginning of this paper that the classic view of truth was a correspondence view, or non-contradiction. Such a view says that truth is what corresponds to reality. And of course, error is what does not correspond to reality. This means that truth is a characteristic of propositions, not of reality. Reality is, truth is a statement that is in line with that reality. Reality is neither true or false. A lie can be real, but it is not true. In this view, a true person is one who is trustworthy -- he always makes true statements.

There is a new view of truth being applied today. It is an intentionalist view of truth. In other words, a statement is true if it accomplishes what the author intended it to accomplish. Now in this case, a statement might be true even if some or all of its content does not correspond with reality. On the other hand, if it does not accomplish its purpose, it is false even if all the information in it is factually correct.

Also, by this view, a person could be regarded as true, if he lives up to someone’s intentions for him. Under this view, the Bible could be true, even if it has factually incorrect statements in it. Minor errors are immaterial, because they do not hinder the salvation message from getting across.

This appears like a very convenient view of truth for the errantist to adopt. Let’s examine it a little more closely, however, and see some of its implications.

In this view a lie is, if not impossible, at least nearly impossible to discover. If a person tells something that is not correct, with the intent to deceive, then he told the truth, if in fact he did deceive. Thus, to be adept at deceiving is virtuous, by this view, and a person who is a great deceiver is the most true. Satan becomes, then, nearly as true as God, for he is the great deceiver.

In this view also, the 9th commandment does not make sense. “Do not bear false witness” would have to mean that everything you say must accomplish its purpose. But surely that is partly relative to your neighbor? If you intend to inform him, and he is a real idiot, you might be a liar no matter how hard you try, and you could not help but break that commandment.

Though there may be a measure of value in the intention view of truth, it is obviously inadequate. Courts of justice are a farce, by this view.

Errantists generally do not take this view to its logical conclusion, but let’s notice how they do make use of it, Berkouwer comments thus:

For if instrumentality is related to this one central witness, then the term “continuity” can legitimately by used in the doctrine of the God-breathed Scripture without falling into dualism. For this is in harmony with the purpose of God-breathed Scripture. One can never have a clear conception of the latter when it is “formally” approached under the category of correctness or conformity with reality; it must be approached in direct relation to the nature and content of Scripture. For the purpose of the God-breathed Scripture is not at all to provide a scientific gnosis, in order to convey and increase human knowledge and wisdom; but to witness of the salvation of God unto faith. This approach does not mean to separate faith and knowledge. But the knowledge that is the unmistakable aim of Scripture is the knowledge of faith, which does not increase human wisdom, but is life eternal (Jn. 17:3).

He claims not to separate faith and knowledge. Yet such is the inevitable result of his view. If Scripture truth is governed by its purpose, then it is intentional, and is clearly a different kind of truth than scientific truth; or else, if scientific truth is also intentional, then it is meaningless. Dualism is not avoided.

He says later on,

It is not that Scripture offers us no information but that the nature of this information is unique. It is governed by the purpose of God’s revelation. The view of inspiration that forms the basis of the misunderstanding of this purpose considers “inerrancy” essential as a parallel characterization of reliability; that is a flight of fancy away from this purpose.

There is one more basic fallacy of this whole view. There are only two options. If Scripture must be interpreted according to its goal, then one must ask the question, “How do I find the goal.” If it is in Scripture, then I must interpret Scripture to find that goal, and at the same time interpret it according to that goal, which means that I must presuppose it. If I find the goal outside of Scripture, on the other hand, then I have an extra biblical authority over Scripture. There is no solution to this dilemma. Either way, my authority has become subjective.

At the same time, this view also destroys the unity of truth, as we have already intimated. Hubbard says, “Error theologically must mean that which leads us astray from the will of God or the knowledge of his truth.”

There is a definite discrepancy here between God’s truth, and other truth. If Jesus Christ is the Truth (John 14:6), and if God is the final absolute upon which all truth rests, the creator and sustainer, then surely all truth is his truth, and no truth is unimportant, or unrelated to any other truth. A scientist who discovers new truth about the universe is doing God’s will, as it was given to Adam. If we divide truth, we have lost our basis for rationality.

Obviously, as well, the intentionalists do not hold their view consistently. For example, Hubbard accused Lindsell of false statements about Fuller. But to do so, he had to revert to a correspondence view of truth. They use intention to interpret Scripture, but correspondence when criticizing.

At other times they use their theory well for their own convenience. Woodbridge says of Rogers and McKim, “The apologetic variety of history which Rogers and McKim write will make some professional historians wince.” Yet surely, manipulation of history is consistent with their view of truth. If it accomplishes its aim of persuading people to their view, it is true, whether it is correct or not, factually.

Another area of subjectivity in this view that should be mentioned is that it makes truth depend upon the receiver. It might be consistently argued, by intentionalism, that the Bible is true for such people as accept it, and false for such as refuse it.

There are two more methods of attempting to retain authority which we want to mention only briefly, and more study needs to be done into these two areas. The first is what I call “spiritualism.” We mentioned it once before in dealing with neo-orthodoxy. It is the view that the Holy Spirit enables us to discern between the truth and error of Scripture.

There is no doubt that illumination is a very important doctrine, and deserves far more attention than it gets. Packer says:

Bible commentaries, Bible classes, Bible lectures and courses, plus the church’s regular expository ministry, can give us fair certainty as to what scripture meant (and we should make full use of them to that end), but only through the Spirit’s illumination shall we be able to see how the teaching applies to us in our own situation.

But is it adequate to insure objective authority in the face of an errant Bible?

Hubbard thinks that it is. He says:

What proof did the prophets need to test whether God was speaking to them? Nothing but the power of that word itself. What proof did the Thessalonicans need that Paul’s gospel was true? Nothing but the conviction of God the Holy Spirit. What proof do we need to know whether the Bible is the Word of God? Nothing but the Spirit of God speaking to us in Scripture.

Actually, Hubbard’s examples are unfortunate, because although the prophets did not demand proof, God told the people not to believe them unless all that they said came to pass (Deut. 18:22), and Paul commended the Bereans, because they did not accept what he had to say without test, but being more noble than the Thessalonicans, they searched the Scripture to test the truth of Paul’s gospel. But Hubbard is not the only one who appeals to the Spirit.

Dr. Cremer was called upon to write the article “Inspiration” in the second edition of Herzog’s “realencyklopedia” (Vol. vi, sub. voc; pp. 745 seq.) which saw the light in 1880. In preparing this article he was led to take an entirely new view of the meaning of Qeopneustos, according to which it defines Scripture, in II Tim. iii. 16, not according to its origin, but according to its effect -- not as “inspired of God,” but as “inspiring its readers.”

Pinnock also seeks his authority in the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

I have come to place greater confidence in the power of the Spirit to make the Bible come alive for believers than I did before ... . Stress on the Spirit is noticeably lacking in the literature of inerrancy. I think it reveals a preoccupation with apologetic certainty....

If one is an errantist, then the only way to maintain authority is to assume that the Spirit enables us to differentiate between error and truth in Scripture. It is not enough to say that he helps us to understand it, for that does not deal with the problem. That the Spirit teaches us to understand it is the inerrantist position. There is no point in understanding error. Indeed, it cannot be understood, really, because error is unreasonable, and what is unreasonable cannot be understood.

The problem is, then, who’s witness of the Spirit is authoritative? Supposing two of us hold contradictory views as to what is error and what is true, both claiming the Spirit’s guidance. Unless you have something to test against, there is no reason for anybody to believe you before me. The authority is therefore subjective, and for that reason inadequate; it is inescapable.

The final attempt is that of direct revelation. This is at present uncommon among evangelicals, though it is the rule among cultists. But it is the next logical step from “spiritualism”; in fact, spiritualism is a disguised form of direct revelation. In spiritualism, the Spirit gives me direct revelation as to the true canon within the Bible. In direct revelation, I am not restricted to the Bible.

Pache says, ”Almost every heresy and sect has originated in a supposed revelation or a new experience on the part of its founder, something outside the strictly biblical framework.”

This is the ultimate result of acceptance of extra biblical and subjective authority. It is inadequate for precisely the same reasons as is spiritualism, so we will not bother to further refute it, but refer the reader back to that section.

 

To conclude our investigation of authority, let us note that without inerrancy, we have no adequate authority;

If it is finally settled that Scripture can err, then the church and its theologians will learn that no source and no standard remains to solve further doctrinal problems that may arise.

When we have no adequate authority, our doctrines have no secure base.

Where this [inerrancy] confession is not made, Scripture will not all be taken with all seriousness, elements of its teaching will inevitably be ignored, and the result, as Lindsell and Schaeffer with others correctly foresee, is bound to be a certain diminution of supernatural Christian faith -- as we have seen in the various versions of liberalism, neo-orthodoxy, and “biblical theology” and as we must now expect to see in new forms in tomorrow’s Roman Catholicism.

 

I am saying that whether it takes five years or fifty years any denomination or para-church group that forsakes inerrancy will end up shipwrecked. It is impossible to prevent the surrender of other important doctrinal teachings of the Word of God when Inerrancy is gone.

It may be argued by some that inerrancy does not provide any more adequate authority then does errancy.  Pinnock argues, with many others, that inerrancy is really not valid, since we all admit errors in our copies. Surely this argument can be seen through, since with the matter of the text we have variations, and we are quite aware what they are. Most of the text is quite certain.

The second argument is more difficult to refute; namely, that Scripture cannot be understood until it is interpreted, and that any interpretation will be subjective, since it will be colored by our background, education, etc. Now it may be true that interpretation has subjective elements in it, but it does not need to be wholly so. If language is valid, then much of Scripture will be obvious without much interpretation. The more precise the language, and the more objective it is, the less interpretation is involved. Also, we have something to test our interpretation against. We believe in the validity of reason. We recognize that man’s reason is fallen and so tainted. But though we may not be able, by reason, to understand infallibly, when the Holy Spirit points out inconsistency to us (error) in our interpretation, we can recognize it if we will. We have an objective base to argue from, whatever material we must deal with subjectively. We have an objective authority, infallible in all it touches, and therefore adequate.Inerrancy and. Authority

 

 

 

 

With all the talk of inerrancy, limited inerrancy, and various other  questions about the Bible today, it may sometimes be forgotten that what is actually at stake is the issue of authority. It is not a question of whether or not we have an authority. Montgomery, in writing about Romanism, says:

Surely some final authority must exist, and it would. appear that it now rests in the New Shape Roman theologian and. his community of like-minded. souls. There is thus more than irony in the definition of infallibility in Dominican Maurice Lelong’s “New Church Lexicon”: “The scandal of Vatican I. Infallibility can only be collective and. popular.” Inerrancy can no longer focus on one book or one man; it is now corporate and. democratic! Does this suggest the profound truth that no one ever dispenses with authority - one only relocates it?

Authority always exists. The question is, is my authority adequate? Where is it located?

I contend that, although any view of scripture allows for some kind of authority, without inerrancy there can be no adequate authority for the questions facing us.

This is not presented as a proof of inerrancy. It simply does not follow that because we need an adequate authority, therefore we must have it. If inerrancy of Scripture is false, my contention is that we do not have an adequate authority, and if we do not have an adequate authority, we will have to live without one - or we can commit suicide, and. if the Bible is errant, we have no authority great enough to tell us we must not do so.

In order to present my arguments clearly, it is important to the reader know where I am coming from. Many writers today do not begin by establishing their presuppositions, perhaps with the hope that the reader will think they don’t have any. But no one ever thinks without presuppositions, and for this reason, every argument is actually circular. The logical positivist, who claims to work inductively from primary information, still has to presuppose the validity of reason, or his senses.

Not only do all arguments carry presuppositions, but presuppositions are very difficult to refute, because before they can be falsified they must be given up. They cannot be proven or dis-proven.

That is not to say, however, that no argument can be persuasive. J. M. Frame brings this out clearly.

A “proof” of, say, the primacy of reason, can be highly persuasive and logically sound even though, at one level, circular. The circularity is rarely blatant; it lurks in the background.. One never says, “reason is true because reason says it is.” One says instead, “Reason is true because one must presuppose it even to deny it.” The second. argument is just as circular as the first. Both presuppose the validity of reason. But in the second argument the presupposition is implicit rather than explicit. And the second one is highly persuasive! The irrationalist cannot help but note that he is (in many cases) presenting his irrationalism in a highly rational way. He is trying to be more rational than the rationalist - a contradictory way to be! He must decide either to be a more consistent irrationalist (but note the paradox of that!) or to abandon his irrationalism. Of course, he might renounce consistency altogether, thus renouncing the presupposition of the argument. But the argument shows him vividly how hard it is to live without rationality. The argument is circular, but it draws some important facts to his attention. The argument is persuasive though circular because down deep in our hearts we know that we cannot live without reason.

 

Again he says:

A Christian Theist, while conceding that the argument for God’s existence is circular, nevertheless will claim that the argument is sound and persuasive, for he devoutly believes that his position is true, and he believes that it can be recognized clearly as such. He believes that God made man to think in terms of this circularity, rather than in terms of some competing circularity.”

While conceding that my arguments will be ultimately circular, and admitting my presuppositions right from the start, as I believe any honest writer ought to do, I still believe that the arguments presented will be reasonable and, hopefully, persuasive.

 

Basic presuppositions of this paper

 

Firstly, in this paper I am presupposing the validity of reason, or more specifically, the principle of non-contradiction. Actually, anyone who ever sits down to write, or even anyone who converses with anyone, has in practice presupposed. the validity of reason, for without reason, all communication is nonsense, and it is foolish to attempt it. It stands to reason that if my propositions can contradict reality, and if I can contradict myself, then in fact I will have communicated nothing to anyone; reason is therefore essential to communication.

Indeed, one cannot even do away with reason unreasonably. To deny reason, one must first assume it, as Frame pointed out above.

Secondly, I am presupposing the validity of language as a means of expressing truth.

There is a contemporary view of language that claims that language is incapable of conveying truth about God. Indeed, some linguists go so far as to say that language cannot be true at all, because of the discrepancy between the word and the object. But there is an immediate problem with this proposition. If we say, “Language cannot convey truth,” then we must ask, is that a true statement? If it is a true statement, then it is false, for it has just done what it said could not be done. And if it is false, on the other hand, then it is eliminated.

So language can convey truth; if it could not people would not talk, because it would be practically meaningless to do so. But what about God-talk? Is that, perhaps meaningless?

David Hume, the skeptical empiricist, was convinced that God-talk is non-sense. Geisler writes concerning his principle,

According to this principle, a statement, to be meaningful, must either be true by definition, (such as “all triangles have three sides”) or else it must be verifiable by one or more of the five senses. The principle, of course, proved to be too narrow (since it eliminated even some scientific statements) and had to be revised. But the conclusion reached by Ayer and other semantical atheists after him is still with us, namely that all God-talk is meaningless.”

 

This is also the basic idea of the logical positivist. But how do we answer it? It is true that much God’-talk cannot be verified, or falsified, by the senses. Is it therefore meaningless?

We must realize that God-talk is a language of presupposition. And as we said before, presupposition resists falsification. Indeed, the presuppositions of the logical positivist (the validity of logic, and the senses) cannot be empirically tested, and. so are non-sense by their own standard!

Obviously, God-talk is valid when viewed in that light. In fact, the idea that language is useless is based on the presupposition that language evolved. We presuppose, rather, that language was given to man by God, and is therefore meaningful. It cannot convey all there is to know about God, but it can express something about God validly and truthfully.

Even though the argument of this paper is not based on inerrancy, there can be no question that it is a presupposition that will color the content of the paper, and so I include it as my third presupposition. Some may feel that this is not truly a presupposition, since it seems to be arguable without circularity, but in reality it is not. Let us follow the argument closely. Warfield gives the basis of the doctrine clearly.

We believe this doctrine of the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures primarily because it is the doctrine which Christ and his apostles believed, and which they have taught to us. It may sometimes seem difficult to take our stand frankly by the side of Christ and his apostles. It will always be found safe.

In the same vein, Montgomery says, “Logically, if the Bible is not inerrant, though Jesus thought it was, He can hardly be the incarnate God He claimed to be and for whom the same claims are made by his apostles.”

I believe that the evidence from Scripture that Christ did believe in inerrancy has been adequately given by other writers, but we may cite, for example, Matt. 5:18, and Luke 14:17, or Matt. 22:43, demonstrating that Christ argued the very words of the Psalm. But one might say, “You are taking your evidence that Christ believed in inerrancy of Scripture from Scripture, and must therefore presuppose it’s inerrancy, since if it is not inerrant, then it may be in error at the points of Christ’s view of Scripture.” I must respond, that is correct. Thus, inerrancy is a presupposition, howbeit, I believe, a valid one.

Finally, a point that is more of a clarification than a presupposition. We must differentiate between a system of hermeneutics, and a statement regarding the nature of Scripture. Some, for example, have argued against inerrancy, saying that the Bible does not speak with scientific accuracy, i.e. that it often rounds numbers, etc. Now, that may be a sound principle of interpretation, or it may not, but it has nothing to say about whether the Bible is inerrant or not. In fact, it more supports inerrancy than otherwise. Inerrancy is a presupposition which hermeneutics must take into account. Parker expresses this very lucidly in his article, Encountering Present-day views of Scripture.

Though the confession of inerrancy does not help us to make the literary judgments that interpretation involves, it commits us in advance to harmonize and integrate all that we find Scripture teaching, without remainder, and so makes possible a theological grasp of Christianity that is altogether believing and altogether obedient.

There are other presuppositions that it might be useful to the reader to know, but I think most would be summed up adequately by saying that I hold a Theistic World View.

As to the scope of this paper, I am not attempting to defend the doctrine of inerrancy, or even of inspiration. I am only seeking to establish my thesis. I shall begin with a short historical analysis of the concept of truth, and show how views of truth have changed through the past centuries. I will then seek to give a method of building a view of truth, and for testing such views. I will show how the modern views of truth are inadequate, and. why the classic view of truth did not satisfy.

All this is to lay the groundwork for a discussion of authority, because authority is ultimately based on truth. I will describe two kinds of authority, showing the adequacy of one, and the inadequacy of the other.

I will then give the major views of Scripture that various errantists have used in an attempt to preserve an adequate authority for Scripture, and I will show why they cannot do so. In conclusion, I will show how inerrancy does provide an adequate authority.

 

I. A short historical analysis of the concept of truth

The classic view of truth is two-fold. First, truth cannot be contradictory (i.e. A cannot at the same time be non-A), and second, it must correspond with reality. This idea of truth assures two things. First, it assures that truth is a unity, for if a truth cannot be contradictory and still be true, then it follows that a truth from the realm of, say, physics cannot contradict a truth from the realm of biology, or one of them is not true. Or, a truth from the realm of history cannot contradict a truth from the realm of theology, or nature, and so on. So if the law of non-contradiction is valid, then there must be a unity to truth, and if the unifying factor can be discovered, all truth can be correlated.

Secondly, it assures that truth will be objective, for it must correspond to reality. That does not, of course, mean that every real proposition is true. A proposition may be a real proposition and yet not be in line with reality (i.e. a lie). Thus, a true proposition about a proposition that does not line up with reality is “that is a lie,” because that lines up with the reality of the falsity of the first proposition.

Neither does this do away with the validity of subjective or relative truth, because both are actually objective assessments of limited or comparative facts. For example, if a person says, “Spinach is good,” that subjective statement may be objectively true as it pertains to that person if in fact he really likes spinach, or thinks that spinach is good even if he does not like it. If so, it is a valid subjective truth, and it is also objectively true as regards that person.

The classical pagan philosophers were unable to correlate all truth, because they lacked. the unifying factor, i.e. the theistic God. The apostles possessed the unifying factor, and were able to build a valid epistemology that could account for both general principles and particular incidents. But with Thomas Aquinas that began to change. He believed that there was some good in the human intellect, that it was not totally depraved.

Bacon followed his lead. Geisler says of him,

After tearing down the “idols” of the old deductive method of discovering truth, Bacon argued that “the best demonstration by far is experience.” The inductive method, he said, is the true way to interpret nature. One can understand how Bacon could consider inductive logic a valid method for scientific inquiry, but he went far beyond reasonable bounds when he claimed universal applicability for his method.

This means that every general principle had to be derived from experience-able details. The fact that he was assuming a general principle a priori (i.e. that reason is capable of interpreting man’s experiences) did not seem to occur to him.

But what would he do with God? For God could not be discovered inductively. Again from Geisler:

For Bacon and even more clearly for Hobbes who followed him, the Bible serves a religious and evocative function -- it leads us to honor and obey God but does not make cognitive truth claims about God nor affirmations about the physical universe.

What Bacon and Hobbes had done, whether or not they realized it, was to deny either non-contradiction or else the truth of theology. Thus they set the groundwork for the destruction of the unity of truth. For Hobbes, religion is absurd, and must be accepted by blind faith. But why accept it if it is not true? And if it is true, you have two kinds of truth that are contradictory! Unity is destroyed, and essentially, non-contradiction is destroyed.

Immanuel Kant also contributed to the loss of unity. He was an agnostic, and taught that we cannot know, only perceive. We can know the “thing-to-me,” (phenomenal) but not the “thing-in-itself” (noumenal). This gulf is impassible by the nature of knowing (i.e. as Bacon taught it). Although he did not deny objective truth, he said we cannot know it. Facts have nothing to do with values, because facts are what we perceive, values are what are real. So perceptions, in his thinking, are objective, realities subjective.

Kierkegaard followed Kant, also making a fact/value dichotomy, but distinguishing between the factual or propositional and. the personal. The two were unrelated. God is beyond proof, the doctrines of God and of inspiration are unfalsifiable, because totally divorced from reason. God then becomes practically subjective. He can only be known by faith, whereas facts are known by reason. So we have the same dichotomy between theological Truth and. natural truth.

It is interesting that Rogers and McKim attribute this same dichotomy to Calvin:

Calvin did not wish to substitute theology for philosophy. Each had. its own appropriate realm -- theology for matters of salvation and the life of faith, and philosophy for matters of worldly wisdom and practice.

It is hard to conceive of Calvin as a modern man!

The third stage is a move to irrationality. Following Bacon’s lead, and moving from specifics to universals, man finally realized that he had to give up the rationality of faith, and theology, but not only that. Everything had to be irrational. Why? Because ideally all facts must be related to a system to be intelligib1e. But man found that facts are so varied that he could not find a system that would cover all of them. He despaired of ever doing so, and concluded that all facts are irrational and unrelated. Rationality is purely a subjective, pragmatic way of looking at things. It must be subjective, because (following Kant) I am the only person that I know exists. I perceive everyone else, and that means they are phenomenal and unknowable. And it must be pragmatic because “If factuality is non-rational, it is expected that rationality will be merely ‘practical’.” It is clear that we cannot live without reason, but if it is unreal, then it must be some make-believe practical system that we adopt to give ourselves security.

Not only does truth become subjective under irrationality, but the way is opened for humanism as well. If my own existence is the only thing I can be sure of, then I must make myself the ultimate reference point for interpreting my perceptions. As Van Til says,

That issue may be stated simply and comprehensively by saying that in the Christian view of things it is the self-contained God who is the final point of reference, while in the case of the modern view it is the would-be self-contained man who is the final point of reference in all interpretation.”

We will see later on what this does to authority.

 

II. An adequate test for systems of truth

If we are ever to arrive at some idea of what truth is, we must have a test by which we evaluate each view of truth.

The first thing we must not do is formulate a test that will, by definition, rule out any view of truth but what we want truth to be. For example, Hume argued against miracles by defining a miracle as something that never happens. If we accept that definition, then of course there are no miracles in reality, because as soon as something happens it is not a miracle, by the definition. Such an argument is not valid. It is a misuse of language.

An adequate view of truth must be able to account for everything; every fact, every observation, every feeling, every illusion. There must be nothing in the universe that is not covered by the system. The only alternative is to give up rationality, and we have shown in the introduction how difficult that is. We should not give it up until we have tried every possibility.

But how can we go about building a system of truth that will cover everything? I would like to suggest that we search for truth in the same way that the legendary Sherlock Holmes sought for criminals.

In the first place, we must not pretend to think without presuppositions. If we think we do, we are deceiving ourselves, and a self-deceived person will never arrive at truth. In fact, our system of truth, ultimately, is our presupposition. So what we really have to test are our presuppositions.

Secondly, we must not limit ourselves to any one way of thinking. Some thinkers have tried to reason from pure deduction, but have not been able to deduce all that is. Others, like Bacon, have tried to reason from induction only, but have not been able to put all their facts into any one system. But is it inconceivable that both methods of thinking could be used together? It ought to be attempted.

Thirdly, one must not rule out, a priori, any system of truth simply because it carries obligations with it, or would demand change of us. That is dishonesty.

How did Holmes operate? He took the facts that he had, and from them induced. several general theories. From these theories he deduced further facts that ought to exist if the theory were correct. Then he would begin to look for those facts. If they did not, in reality, exist, he tried a different theory, and tested it in the same way. At the same time, again inducing, if he discovered a fact that did not fit the theory, he altered or expanded the theory, or else dropped it, and continued on from there.

If we apply this method to modern systems of thought, we are faced with some grave difficulties. Both irrationality and subjectivism are out of line with our minds -- and our minds are part of what is there. Neither one can account for it. We find it impossible to think in a totally irrational manner. Both leave us with subjective truth, and. yet we cannot live with that either, for we are forever trying to persuade other people to think like we do, or at least thinking that they are wrong in the way they think. But if truth is subjective, then nobody is wrong, and. if that were true, we would not think that they are wrong. We are contradicting our presuppositions to suppose so.

Let us postulate a pantheistic world view. Can it account for all that is? Well, it says that all is unity. But is that all there is? Don’t we experience diversity? Ah, yes, but that appearance of diversity is illusion. But surely the illusion is something different from the reality? For if illusion and reality were the same thing, we would never know the difference. Pantheism cannot account for all there is.

Perhaps the universe is all chance. Will that explain all there is? From that premise, we would naturally expect the universe to be random. There is, in that view, no real cause and effect. Why should chance move in an orderly way? We never experience it so. But the world seems to be orderly, not random. And if all is chance, the universe should be impersonal. But that does not account for man, who at least appears to be personal. And if all is chance, why don’t we live that way? Why are we careful what we eat, what we do, etc? For if all is chance, then when I jump off a bridge, I never know if I will fall or not. Chance cannot account for all that is.

Perhaps someone would argue that the classic view of truth as objective and unified has not been able to explain all there is either. We would reply that those who did not find it adequate built it on too narrow a foundation. It can account for all there is, if one admits the possibility of a theistic God.

Working from the general hypothesis of a theistic God, one would expect order in the universe. And in fact, the universe seems to be orderly. One would expect some evidence of personality, and man seems to be personal. A correlation between man and his environment would be expected, and we find such a correlation. We would expect man to have a moral sensibility, and he does. We would. expect a correlation between man’s thoughts, and the place in which he lives, and man does tend to think in terms of correspondence.

We could go on and on. It is granted that an adequate application of this method is beyond the power of the pen, but it is also believed that if anyone will look honestly at the issue, he will see that as there are only a limited number of possibilities, and only one will account for all that is, it must be correct. And if it is, then we have preserved rationality -- unity and objectivity.

 

III. The question of authority

The next question confronting us is, what about authority? What is it? What constitutes an adequate authority?

The dictionary gives several definitions of the word. For example, “A citation (as from a book) used in defense or support of ones actions, opinions, or beliefs,” or “power to require and receive submission: the right to expect obedience.”

Both carry with them the idea of a control of actions and beliefs. Authority is the reason behind what I do and think. Authority is the “ought” of life. Perhaps authority is not necessary, in the ultimate sense of the word, but none the less, “no one ever dispenses with authority, one only relocates it.” Every man attempts always to show reasons why he is right, or why he did what he did, and if he does not, it is because he considers himself the ultimate authority.

J.I. Packer comments that “only truth can have final authority to determine belief and behavior.” The idea is that the “ought” says that I must bring my beliefs and behavior into line with what is true.

But why should I believe what is true? What is wrong with believing something that is false? To many, this question may seem absurd. Of course, it is stupid to deliberately believe a falsehood. But it is a legitimate question none the less. So again I ask, why? Because it is necessary for survival. I will not live long, physically if I refuse to live according to the physical reality of the universe. But even more important, I will not survive spiritually without living in harmony with the spiritual reality of the universe.

Not only does authority involve the demand that we line up with truth, it also involves how we discover truth. Everything we believe we believe on authority. We accept on authority that Julius Caesar was a Roman Emperor. Our authority is history, or more correctly, historians. Our authority for believing something may be another person, or a book, or our own senses, or our own reason. But we always believe by assuming the authority of our source of knowledge. We cannot know without authority.

 

Finally, authority must be as general as the class to which it refers. For example, human beings are all a part of the material universe. Therefore the realities of matter have authority over all mankind. Every man, to survive, must live in line with material reality. No one is exempt from the authority of the reality of gravity. Every unsupported body within the gravitational dominance of the earth falls toward the earth.

So a man needs two things; his authority must be able to tell him what reality is, and also how to live in harmony with the reality.

Authority is based on truth. Therefore since we have two basic concepts of truth, we have also two ideas of authority.

If, as many claim, truth is subjective, then authority is also subjective. The idea of subjective truth is based on the assumption that all that is real is in the subject. The material universe may not be real, nor other people either. All that I know is real is myself. Subjective authority says that the only reality I must line up with is myself, and that I myself can be trusted as the source of truth regarding myself. Now, if in fact reality only involves myself, then subjective authority is adequate. But if reality can apply to things other than myself, such authority is not adequate, because it does not account for all of reality. In fact, truth is not subjective, and this is illustrated by the fact that not even the subjectivists live as though it were. If they do, they don’t live. Even a subjectivist will get out of the way of a Mack truck, if he sees it. Why? Because he recognizes and submits to the objective authority of the laws of motion. Objective authority is adequate, for it accounts for the Mack truck. Subjective authority is not adequate, and the subject knows it.

Some would say that we need objective authority in the material realm, but that subjective authority is adequate in the spiritual realm.

More than a century ago, he [Schleiermacher] taught that the true source of theology was not the Bible but man’s religious consciousness. Thus the objective revelation of God in the Bible was set aside, and man’s subjective opinions were exalted to the position of authority.

Again, the only possible way to hold this is to assume that man is the only spiritual reality in the universe. If there is a God who is real, subjective authority cannot account for him.

It may be argued that objective authority is not adequate either, because it demands that I be in harmony with all of reality, and I cannot know all of reality. By this argument, I should not be surviving. This objection is invalid on two counts. Not all of reality is applicable to me directly and at all times. If there are no elephants where I live, then truths about elephants may not be applicable to me at present. Secondly, it does not take the theistic God into account. If he is the creator, then we can expect him to be in harmony with all of reality. And therefore, if we are in harmony with him, we will be in harmony with all of reality. That does not mean that we approve of all reality. The way to be in harmony with the reality of sin, for example, is to hate it, and expect it to be judged, finally.

In summary, subjective authority is not adequate, because it takes myself only into account. If there is any reality there, besides myself, subjective authority cannot account for it, and any attempt to do so is no more authoritative than anyone elses' attempt.

Objective authority, on the other hand, is adequate if the source is dependable and knowledgeable. Keep in mind that a source may be dependable and knowledgeable in a limited sphere, and so be adequate authority in that limited sphere, but remain an inadequate authority in a broader sphere. For example, our senses are a reliable source of objective authority, in a limited. sphere (the material) and when their frailties are taken into account (i.e. one must be tested against the other, for our senses may be deceiving; and their limits must be recognized). That the senses are a relatively objective authority is seen in the fact that by following them we manage to survive, whereas when they are impaired (i.e. as through alcohol consumption), non-survival increases. But our senses, on the other hand , are not an adequate objective authority for direct spiritual awareness.

 

 

IV. The search for authority in errancy

 

There are perhaps two main reasons why many evangelicals have repudiated the inerrancy of Scripture. The first is because of apparent internal contradictions. They believe that there are things in Scripture that do not harmonize; such as various dates, etc. The second reason is that they believe there are things in Scriptures that contradict the findings of science. Berkouwer tacitly admits this, when he says, “This has gone hand in hand with an increasing revulsion against ‘harmonism’ and ‘concordism’ phenomena which all too often advance a view of Scripture that demands too much of it.”

Stephen Davis says that the Bible should be authoritative for every Christian on all that it says on any subject until he comes across something which he judges that he, for good reasons, cannot accept.

What the errantists may not realize is that they had to shift their authority before they could assert that there are any errors in the Bible. If scripture is our absolute authority, then what contradicts it must be wrong, and contradictions within it must be apparent, and should be possible to harmonize with proper hermeneutics and further light. Only if I, a priori, admit that there are other authorities at least equal to Scripture, can I admit to errors in Scripture. This attitude toward Scripture is not in the least a necessary one. Better scholarship is constantly reducing the internal conflicts in Scripture, and science is a very unstable pillar to build one’s authority upon. It is continually changing its dogmas. For example, Scripture was once scoffed at for talking about the sun rising, (though every scientist, in everyday language, speaks of the sunrise and sunset). But now, with the advent of relativity, scientist say that it really doesn’t matter whether you speak of the sun going around the earth, or the earth around the sun; it all depends on your frame of reference, anyway. We have no way of knowing for sure which way it is. So old concepts of science are shown to be out of date, and if the Bible is allowed to change by every whim of science, it may be false today and true tomorrow.

Errantists have recognized that with their view of inspiration, Biblical authority was placed on a flimsy foundation, and have proposed a variety of theories to maintain the authority of an errant Scripture. But none of them are adequate to do so, as we shall see in the remainder of this paper.

In these systems there is bound to be overlap, as they all have some things in common, and a few things are common to all. This should be kept in mind as we proceed.

The first theory that we will examine is the theory of accommodation, or adaptation.

The basic idea of this theory is that God accommodated himself to humanity in the Scriptures in order to make them comprehensible to man, and in so doing, had to incorporate errors. It is often likened to a little child who’s father talks to him in a truncated language, accommodating himself to the child’s vocabulary and understanding. Pinnock uses this argument, claiming that it is not necessary for the Bible to be inerrant just because it is inspired, because God uses fallible human beings all the time to proclaim his word, and he accomplishes his purpose by it.

There are several assumptions of this view that should be pointed out. First, that the Bible errs because it presents things as they appear, rather than as they are. Second, the idea that if God accommodates himself to human language, he must err, because humans err. Thirdly, the idea that because the Bible emphasizes certain things, it may err in what it dots not emphasize. And finally, because it is written by men, it must err, because men err.

This view is often taken further, to say that God not only accommodated himself to human language, but to the Hebrew thought forms and to the contemporary culture as well.

An integral and practical part of the theory of accommodation is the separation of the “human” and “divine” elements of Scripture. Pinnock says, “Although Protestant orthodoxy confesses both the divine and the human element in the Bible, as it also does in Christology, it has been happier affirming its divine authority than admitting its human characteristics.” He says further, “The prime theological issue which became evident in our survey of options on biblical authority is the need to maintain with equal force both the humanity and the divinity of the word of Scripture.”

The idea of this dichotomy is that the Bible is the writing of men, written with their own peculiar literary style, their own backgrounds, viewpoints, world views, education, and so on as a foundation for that writing. It is contended that they must have erred, since their world view would be as erroneous as their contemporaries’.

 

In fact, there is a legitimate idea of accommodation. God did condescend to speak in human language. There is no other way for him to make himself intelligible to man. But it does not follow that language therefore must err, in that it is human. A father, in accommodating himself to a small child, does not necessarily misinform him, simply because he is speaking a child language. Although he may not be able to give comprehensive truth, in the sense of saying all that could be said, due to the child’s limited understanding, what he says can still be precise. Neither is strict precision always necessary, and when it is not needed lack of it is not a fault. I may, in everyday conversation, speak of the “five mile corner.” That is adequate and true, for in normal usage, nobody would expect me to say “five miles, three feet, four point zero zero one six three inches.” It would not mean anything to anyone anyway. Rounding is an accepted language procedure.

Young demonstrates that within the context of a Biblical view of truth there is room for crudity and roughness of literary style, including improper grammatical structure, variations of parallel accounts of events, discourses, etc. but not room for contradiction or deception. Phenomenological, anthropomorphic, hyperbolic, etc. forms of language do not negate or falsify truth.

Human language may err, but it does not necessarily do so. As to God accommodating himself to Hebrew thought forms, there is, of course, a nucleus of truth here. The Old Testament is written in Hebrew, in Hebrew style, and reflecting Hebrew thought. But although a language does reflect the thought forms of a culture, it is not bound to them. James Barr argues that it is an unsound linguistic procedure to make the supposed thought structure of a language group dictate the possible meanings of the words in that language. Although the language may reflect the thought patterns of a group, it can express truths not dominant in the particular thought pattern. It is true that to interpret correctly, we must be aware of such things, but that is hermeneutics. It does not follow that the Bible errs.

Again, it is argued that Scripture adapts to and reflects human culture, and. so must err. To put it more clearly, the Bible can be discounted where it touches on culture, because it was only reflecting the culture of the day, and that culture is not necessarily right. Of this idea Warfield says:

The fact is that the theory of ‘accommodation’ is presented by Mr. Stuart only to enable him the more easily to refuse to be bound by the apostolic teaching in this matter, and as such it has served him as a stepping stone by which he has attained to an even more drastic principle, on which he practically acts: that wherever the apostle can be shown to agree with their contemporaries, their teaching may be neglected.

It obviously does not follow that agreement with contemporaries indicates error, especially as it may be noticed that on many points the Bible counters current culture.

Perhaps the overall argument here is that the Bible, as a human book, must be subject to error, but that in it’s divine aspect, it is authoritative. This may sound reasonable, but three things need to be realized. First, because it is a human book, it does not necessarily err. Christ was human, and yet did not err. This we must hold to, for “had he been mistaken... the church could well ask whether any single teaching of Jesus on any subject (including the way of salvation) might not also reflect his sincere misunderstanding.” To postulate that Jesus erred is to destroy his authority. Secondly, if the Bible errs because it is human, the Holy Spirit, as supervisor of the work, must still be held responsible for all errors. Let us imagine an executive secretary, who’s boss instructs her to write a letter, giving such and such information, and when it is finished, to bring it to him for his signature. She writes the letter, couching it in her own style, her own vocabulary, and so on. She brings it to the boss, he reads it and signs it. When he puts his signature on it, he is endorsing all it contains. If there are errors in it, he was responsible to catch them and have them corrected before he signed it. He is responsible. In the same sense, the Holy Spirit “signed” the Scriptures. He is responsible for every error. But, though it might have been error through ignorance on the part of the human author, on the part of the Holy Spirit, it is a lie, for he is not ignorant. If the Holy Spirit lies, his authority is destroyed. He cannot be trusted.

Finally, if the Bible is Human and Divine, and the human element admits errors, who or what determines what the errors are, and what is not error? Perhaps it would be advocated that Scripture itself witnesses to the difference. But what principle of Scripture would indicate how to tell its errors from truth? And should we find such a principle, what is to guarantee that the principle itself is not part of the errant matter, and so invalid?

Perhaps we will allow science, in the broadest sense of that term, to determine what is error and what is not. But in that case, science, not the Bible, has become my final authority; and besides, science, or at least scientists, are not infallible. How do I know that they are not in error regarding which parts of Scripture err? Is the authority of fallible scientists adequate for spiritual matters? Will I place my soul’s eternal destiny in their hands? Perhaps you would say that we must use our own judgment as to where science, or the Scripture errs. But now, I am become my own authority. Where do I get my guidelines for discernment? I cannot get them from Scripture; that is what needs discerning. I am left with a subjective authority, and we have already seen that such an authority is totally inadequate,

The concept of accommodation as the errantist present it leaves us without an adequate authority. In the final analysis, it leaves me alone with myself. I cannot know for sure, the validity of anything outside myself.

Before discussing the “limited inerrancy” view, I want to deal briefly with a concept proposed by Berkouwer, that is closely allied with accommodation. It is the idea of “time-boundedness.”

Moreover, the Word finds its way through periods having their own social structures and “cultural patterns” -- customs and concepts relative to the particular period. The Word of God does not remain aloof from this, but is heard in the midst of it. As a result, the time-boundedness of certain admonitions and prohibitions is clear to all. Various statements by Paul regarding womanhood and marriage constitute some of the most discussed illustrations of this particular problem of time-boundness.

The obvious idea is that because the Word is “time-bound” it cannot give objective truth in regards to such things as womanhood. Scripture reflected, not God’s mind, but the mind of the men of the day, in certain things. He gives a further example of this argument.

One should also mention Paul’s ‘argument’ that man was not made from women, but woman from man, and that man is now born of woman (I Cor. 18:8-12). It is evident that one cannot make an inch of progress by speaking of the “correctness” of such words in the abstract.

The implication of what he is saying is clear. Creation is an out-modded, “time-bound” concept (of course God didn’t really make Eve from Adam’s rib. That is only a story, a legend of the Hebrews), and so we don’t believe it. Because Paul’s argument is based on this “time-bound” concept, then it is also time-bound, and we don’t believe it either. But the upshot of it all is, that I can refuse anything in Scripture on that basis, for all of it was written more than one thousand years ago. Who is to determine what has been affected by time, and what has not? Ultimately, I must determine that for myself, according to what seems reasonable to me, and that means that my authority is again subjective. But a subjective authority is not adequate for objective truth.

Berkouwer claims that Paul himself supports the “time-boundedness” idea.

Besides, we note how Paul himself gives an indication of this situation and time-boundedness He emphatically answers questions which have been sent to him (I Cor. 7:1), and he considers something to be right “in view of the impending distress” (I Cor. 7:26).

Actually, this argues against the concept, for the fact that Paul goes out of his way to express the “time-boundedness” of this situation indicates that other situations are not time-bound, else why make a special case of this one?

The second theory that we want to discuss, and perhaps the most popular, is the “limited inerrancy” theory. Benedict Spinoza taught the basic tenant of this view -- that the Bible is authoritative in religious matters only. He carried it further perhaps then modern day evangelicals would, for he said that the Bible has nothing to say to reason; science is for the intellect, religion is for the will. Perhaps he was more consistent than some of his modern counterparts.

Francis Schaeffer explains this view as follows:

The issue is whether the Bible gives propositional truth (that is, truth that may be stated in propositions) where it touches history and the cosmos, and this all the way back to the first eleven chapters of Genesis, or whether instead of that it is only meaningful where it touches that which is considered religious.

 

Harold Lindsell says it this way: “The sum of it is this: Whatever has to do with the gospel in the Bible is inspired and can be trusted; whatever does not have to do with the gospel has errors in it -- it is not inerrant.”

And Geisler quotes Davis: “Davis says, ‘there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible,’ and adds, ‘I have found none on matters of faith and practice.

It is a simple enough theory on the surface, and it looks as if it might do the job of providing an adequate authority without total inerrancy. But if we examine it closely, we find that it has serious problems.

The first serious difficulty is that we must open up the question of canonicity, at least in a practical way. Unless God inspires error, then what is erroneous is not inspired. Even if it is, it cannot stand on the same level as that which is inerrant. Gerstner points out:

We realize that some who disagree with inerrancy are claiming inspiration for parts of the Bible, the so-called salvation parts. Very well, but then they cannot title their position biblical authority but only partial biblical authority. To add insult to injury to God’s Word, they cannot tell precisely what parts of the Bible are inspired. They say “salvation parts,” but they do not tell us where to find these or how to separate them from the uninspired, errant, non-salvation parts.

In his evaluation of Rogers and McKim’s proposals, Woodbridge comments,

The author’s description of the Bible creates for them the same kind of dilemma that neo-orthodox scholars before them faced: how to distinguish the infallible “central saving message” from the errant “difficult surrounding material.” This is a critical problem because Christianity is grounded in the dirt and dust of human history. Salvation truths are planted in the Bible’s historical discourse about things that happened.

Further, R.C. Sproul says,

Evangelical advocates of limited inerrancy are not expected to embrace Bultmann’s mythical view of New Testament super-naturalism. But their method has no inherent safeguard from an arbitrary delimitation of the scope of the biblical canon.

This is a very serious problem, and the answers that are given only raise more problems, as we shall see.

The second major problem is the old problem of unity of truth. The point is that if truth is a unity, then it is all interrelated, and if I believe error in one field of truth, it will affect my beliefs in all areas. Montgomery puts it this ways:

Regardless of how carefully the view point is stated, it necessarily involves a dualism between what is infallibly reliable in the Bible and what is not;... Not only does the Bible itself offer a monistic philosophy, of knowledge, but this viewpoint is necessitated by the very nature of the fields of knowledge themselves. Only the naive specialist really believes that science is qualitatively different from geography, or geography from history, or history from ethics, or ethics from theology.

This point cannot be given up without ultimately giving up rationality. If there is no integral relation between the fields of truth, then truth is not a unity. Jesus made this point, by arguing moral principles on scientific fact.

In short, we cannot separate science and Scripture. When the Bible declares that Jesus was born of a virgin, then it affirms a biological truth as well as a spiritual one. And when Jesus answered the question about divorce by saying, “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the creator ‘made them male and female’” (Matt. 19:4), He not only laid down a moral principle but made a scientific pronouncement as well. The scientific cannot be separated from the spiritual without doing violence to the spiritual.

Montgomery supports this idea when he says,

“Kenotic” (limitation) theories will not solve this dilemma. A meaningful incarnation demands an incarnate God who knows what He is doing -- on earth as it is in heaven -- and tells the truth -- on earth as it is in heaven. This is precisely the Jesus of Gospel accounts: the One who knows that He existed before Abraham, who condemns lying as a mark of the devil, and who so unites reliability in secular” matters with “theological” reliability that He can say to Nicodemus (and to us), “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believed not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things.

This last point of Jesus to Nicodemus would seem to clinch the argument, except that if you believe in errancy, then Jesus may have been in error when he said it.

We must agree with Montgomery when he says further,

The point does not require belaboring~ For practical purposes we may -- perhaps we must -- distinguish between “historical ,“ “geographical,” and “theological” statements in Holy Writ; but these distinctions are no more inherent to reality than the divisions between hand and wrist or trunk and branches. It is thus logically impossible to argue for an alleged perfection resident “spiritually” in Scripture while admitting imperfections in Scriptural knowledge viewed from a “secular” standpoint. Fallibility in the latter necessitates fallibility in the former --and this leaves one incapable of affirming a single doctrinal or moral teaching of the Bible with finality.

Is it any wonder then that those, such as the Roman Catholic exegete Loisy, beginning with “relative inerrancy” (the Bible erroneous only in matters of science and history) and pursuing vigorously the implications of this viewpoint, ultimately conclude “that the principle of relative truth is in fact of universal application”? 

It should be obvious that if we do away with the unity of truth, we are left with a subjective authority; for if truths can contradict, I am left to choose between the contradictory truths. As Sproul says, “How do we escape dehistoricizing the gospel and relegating it to a level of supra-temporal existential ‘decision’?”

It cannot be done, and we are without an adequate authority.

The third serious problem of the limited inerrancy view is that it places the inerrant material in the Bible outside of any test --it cannot be verified or falsified -- and faith becomes blind; a leap in the dark. R.C. Sproul says of this problem,

To those critics outside the fellowship of evangelicals, the notion of “limited inerrancy” appears artificial and contrived. Limited inerrancy gets us off the apologetical hook by making us immune to religious-historical criticism. We can eat our cake and have it too. The gospel is preserved; and our faith and practice remains intact while we admit errors in matters of history and cosmology. We cannot believe the Bible concerning earthly things, but we stake our lives on what it says concerning heavenly things. That approach was totally abrogated by our Lord (John 3:12).

How do we explain and defend the idea that the Bible is divinely superintended in part of its content but not all of it? Which part is inspired? Why only the faith and practice parts? Again, which are the faith and practice parts? Can we not justly be accused of “weaseling” if we adopt such a view? We remove our faith from the arena of historical verification or falsification. This is a fatal blow for apologetics as the reasoned defense of Christianity.

To do this makes experience the only test of truth in the religious realm. And if we do this, what have we left? This move was foreseen by T.H. Huxley, as Schaeffer points out:

T.H. Huxley, the biologist, the friend of Darwin, the grandfather of Aldous and Julian Huxley, wrote in 1890 that he visualized the day not far hence in which faith would be separated from all fact, and especially all pre-Abrahamic history, and that faith would then go on triumphant forever. This is an amazing quote for 1890 before the birth of existential philosophy or existential theology. He indeed foresaw something clearly. I am sure that he and his friends considered this some kind of a joke, because they would have understood well that if faith is separated from fact and specifically pre-Abrahamic space-time history, it is only another form of what we today call a trip.

 

Schaeffer goes on to say:

 

What I quoted in chapter one from T.H. Huxley applies at specifically this place. J.S. Bezzant, an old-fashioned liberal at Cambridge University, in Objections to Christian Belief also puts his finger on the problem of those who separate the portions of Genesis, and the Bible as a whole, that speak of history and the cosmos from those that speak of religious matters. In general, Bezzant speaks against historic Christianity itself, but suddenly he swings around and speaks to neo-orthodoxy. And he says this: “When I am told that it is precisely its immunity from proof which secures the Christian proclamation from the charge of being mythological I reply that immunity from proof can ‘secure’ nothing whatever except immunity from proof, and call nonsense by its name.” The neo-orthodox position is that the Bible makes mistakes in the areas of history and science, but we are to believe it anyway in the religious areas. The result is that religious things simply become “truth” inside one’s head -- just as the drug experience or the Eastern religious experience is “truth” inside of one’s head.

The moment I make truth untestable, it becomes empirical, and it is therefore subjective. If I argue from experience, how can I refute someone elses' experience, which may be different from mine? If Christianity can be said to be true on the basis of experience, then so can Buddhism — for Buddhists also have experience. We have only a subjective authority, and that is not adequate.

It is interesting to note that God gave his people an objective, factual test by which to check the authority of all prophets (Deut. 18:22), and Paul based the truth of Christianity squarely on the historical fact of the resurrection (I Cor. 15:17).

The fourth serious difficulty is closely related to the first. It is simply this. How do I determine what is religious truth and what is not? Lindsell very clearly states the problem.

Once limited inerrancy is accepted, it places the Bible in the same category with every other book that has ever been written. Every book contains in it some things that are true. And what is true is inerrant. Only two things remain to be determined, once this position is acknowledged. The first is what proportion of the book is true and what proportion is false. It may be 90% false and 10% true; or it may be 90% true and 10% false. The second thing that needs to be determined is what parts of the book are true. Since the book contains both truth and falsehood, of necessity, other criteria outside of the book must be brought to bear upon it to determine what is false and what is true. Whatever the source of the other criteria, that becomes the judge of the book in question. Thus the book becomes subordinate to the standard against which it’s truth is determined and measured.

It is clear that the language of Scripture itself cannot tell us which parts are “faith end practice” parts, and which are not. James Barr, himself no friend of inerrancy, makes this plain.

In other words, the sacred tradition of the apostolic church is never purely “religious language,” and still less so is the Old Testament as the sacred tradition of Israel. But the non-religious language of the Bible is of Theological importance just as the religious language is.

If Scripture’s language itself cannot clear up the question, then we must bring an outside source to bear on it. Commenting further on the Rogers McKim proposals, Woodbridge says,

They do say, however, that “ancient principles must be applied using all that we can learn about language and culture from the human and social sciences of the twentieth century” (p. 461). What this means in practicality is that the infallible salvation material can shrink or expand in accordance with the latest givens in higher biblical criticism, cultural anthropology, or findings from other disciplines. As the changing “givens of modernity” set standards for understanding Scripture for Bultmann, so they do for Rogers and McKim. In a word, the believer is obliged to give up the doctrine of sola Scriptura as the Reformers perceived it because his or her reason influenced by shifting “givens” becomes another authority. Our reason helps us to determine an infallible canon within the Scripture. Ironically, then, Rogers and McKim’s proposal which they package as one of “faith” before “reason” cracks the door open to the radical criticism of the Bible. Their unqualified fideism concerning the role of the Holy Spirit in confirming the authority of Scripture to believers is matched by an apparent unqualified confidence in reason’s rights to superintend biblical studies.

It is obvious that if you judge the Bible by an outside source, and that source is fallible, then in the final analysis, your own mind is the ultimate authority. J.I. Packer says:

He who makes his own judgment his grounds for rejecting anything in the Bible thereby logically makes his own judgment, rather than trust in God’s truthfulness, his ground for accepting everything in the Bible that he does accept.

This is seen quite clearly in Geisler’s quote of Davis: “Davis says, ‘there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible,’ and adds, ‘I have found none on matters of faith and practice.’” The words ‘I have found none’ give him away. It shows that even in the areas of faith and practice, he is on the lookout for errors, showing that ultimately he judges all of Scripture by himself as standard. Such a standard is obviously subjective. It can be concluded then, that if inerrancy is limited, we must apply subjective authority in discovering what is true and what is false, and such authority is inadequate.

The fifth difficulty is what has been termed the “domino theory.” Sproul describes this problem very well.

Frequently this concern is dismissed out of hand as being so much alarmism. But our doctrine of Scripture is not a child’s game of dominoes. We know instances in which men have abandoned belief if full inerrancy but have remained substantially orthodox in the rest of their Theology. We are also aware of the sad instances in which full inerrancy is affirmed yet the substance of theology is corrupt. Inerrancy is no guarantee of Biblical orthodoxy. Yet even a cursory view of church history has shown some patterns of correlation between a weakening of Biblical authority and a serious defection regarding the Wesen of Christianity. The Wesen of nineteenth century liberalism is hardly the gospel evangelicals embrace.

We have already seen, within evangelical circles, a move from limited inerrancy to challenges of matters of faith and practice. When the apostle Paul is depicted as espousing two mutually contradictory views of the role of women in the church, we see a critique of apostolic teaching that does touch directly on the practice of the church.

Geisler points outs:

Davis says, “there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible” and adds, “I have found none on matters of faith and practice.” However he speaks confidently of Paul’s sexism and even of Jesus’ mistaken belief about the time of His second coming.

Surely these are matters of faith and practice. Sproul says:

In the hotly disputed issue of homosexuality we see denominational commissions not only supplementing biblical authority with corroborative evidence drawn from modern sources of medical psychological study but also “correcting” the biblical view by such secular authority.

Obviously the domino theory is not “alarmism.” It is a real danger. That this domino effect exists does not prove anything as regards inerrancy, but it is evidence of the subjective nature of biblical authority with limited inerrancy.

A third method of trying to secure adequate authority for the errancy position is an appeal to church history. Rogers and McKim’s book is an excellent example of this. We will not deal extensively with this attempt, as it is so obviously a weak one, but it does deserve some attention.

In the forward to Rogers and McKim’s book, this statement is made.

To take seriously once more Calvin’s teaching on the Holy Scripture and its roots in Christian history and in the Bible itself means to restore the place of the Holy Spirit, not only as the inspirer of real, living human authors, but as the inspirer too of real, living human interpreters.

In the text of the book, Rogers and McKim say, “Calvin did not wish to substitute theology for philosophy. Each had it’s own appropriate realm -- theology for matters of salvation and the life of faith, and philosophy for matters of worldly wisdom and practice.”

Obviously the writers believe that Calvin did not believe in the full inerrancy of Scripture. Example after example of this could be given. Now of course, it can be argued with a great deal of force that this premise is false, and that the historic position of the Christian church is inerrancy. That is Woodbridge’s position, in his reply to Rogers and McKim. And Berkouwer, himself an errantist, seems to lend credence to the idea that the church did believe in inerrancy when he says,

There can be no doubt that for a long time during church history certainty of faith was specifically linked to the trustworthiness of Holy Scripture as the Word of God. Undoubtedly, Herman Bavinck is referring to this when he writes that there is no doctrine “on which there is more unanimity than on that of Holy Scripture.” From its earliest days the church held that Scripture is not an imperfect, humanly untrustworthy book of various religious experiences, but one with a peculiar mystery, even though the nature of that mystery was often a point of controversy.

But supposing it should be proven that the reformers, and the church fathers did believe the Bible to be errant. That would not make it true, for the church is not infallible. If it were, we would not need Scripture. If orthodoxy is false, let us by all means forsake orthodoxy. The reformers did, when they defied the authority of Rome. So the argument from church history is an extremely weak one.

The fourth attempt at retaining authority while holding to an errant Scripture is the view of neo-orthodoxy. It may be true that evangelicals today do not hold to neo-orthodoxy, but many are proposing a doctrine of Scripture that has varying degrees of similarity to the neo-orthodox position on Scripture, and therefore, it must be examined.

Although Karl Barth is considered the father of neo-orthodoxy, we need to go back to Soren Kierkegaard to find it’s real roots, for neo-orthodoxy is a form of religious existentialism.

Of Kierkegaard’s philosophy Geisler says, “Truth is a subjective encounter with God for which one has no good reason but which one must appropriate by a passionate ‘leap’ of faith. Indeed, Kierkegaard taught that all truth is subjective. He elevated faith as opposed to reason, and taught that there must be no reason for faith, because faith with a factual basis isn’t really faith. He said that the true object of faith was a paradox, not a fact. Truth is a subjective experience.

Nygren says, “Lessing constantly emphasized the search for the truth rather than the results of the search,” and that this was with Kierkegaard’s approval.

We find in Barth the same concept. Barth also finds truth in paradox. For him, there is no certain “yes” or “no”, but rather truth is in the tension between the two; certainty then becomes the greatest enemy of truth, because that tension must be maintained if the search for truth is to go on. In other words, truth is not something that you can know , only an experience you have in the midst of the throes of the dilemma between “yes” and “no.” This philosophy carries into the Bible as well. To Barth, the Bible is “through and through dialectic.”

What then is the neo-orthodox idea of the Bible? To them the Bible is not the Word of God, but it witnesses too the Word of God. It is myth, which illustrates to mens' mind truth, but truth that is not true until he recognizes it as such. It is not propositional truth, but emotional truth.

Barth says:

The Bible is the literary monument of an ancient racial religion and of a Hellenistic cultus religion of the Near East. A human document like any other, it can lay no a priori dogmatic claim to special attention and consideration. This judgment, being announced by every tongue and believed in every territory, we may take for granted today.

To him, it was not God, but Moses who created the law. “Why was it that Moses was able to create a law which for purity and humanity puts us moderns only to shame?”

The Genesis accounts of creation “are not at all an academic account of our beginnings. They are a powerful sermon (almost a song) that celebrate God’s power and glory over all the elements and objects of the universe which Israel’s neighbors falsely worshiped.” He says further, “For the same reason the Biblical idea of the creation is never expended into a cosmogony. It is intended for a solemn marking of the distance between the cosmos and the Creator, and precisely not for a metaphysical explanation of the World.”

For Barth, God is so separate from his creation that there is no positive contact between the two. There is no possibility of a human and divine coming together, so the Bible is purely human. God cannot serve. He must rule. He must himself grasp, seize, manage, use. He can satisfy no other needs than his own. He is not in another world over against this one; he submerges all of this in the other. He is not a thing among other things, but the Wholly Other, the infinite aggregate of all merely relative others.”

God is so far removed that objective, propositional communication to us is impossible. Barth complains that “instead of being the document of the axiomatic, the Bible tends to become to us a document of objective historical information.”

The Bible is faulty in its morals:

Abraham, for instance, as the highest proof of his faith desires to sacrifice his son to God; Jacob wins the birthright by a refined deception of his blind father; Elijah slays the four hundred and fifty priests of Baal by the brook Kishon. Are these exactly praiseworthy examples?

Van Til tells us,

In practice for Brunner ... the Bible cannot teach anything about the “phenomenal world.” According to the critical principle adopted in earlier works and assumed in the present one, the phenomenal world is the world of impersonal forces. And revelation is said to deal with the world of “personal encounter”.

Packer says that “the Bible that is thought of as man’s testament of religious feeling, self-understanding, and ethical inklings is not really the same book as the Bible that is received as God’s testimony to himself,” expressing the neo-orthodox view as contrasted with his own.

So basically the Bible is a human book, faulty, inaccurate, mythological, not proposing propositional truth, a record of religious feelings. What then has become of God’s Word?

It would be false to say that the neo-orthodox do not believe that there are propositions in Scripture; only that the propositions are not true. Indeed with existentialism, a proposition cannot be true, because truth is experience. But the propositions may point to truth.

Propositions are merely pointers; and pointers can be effective whether they are true or false. Brunner states very clearly that a pointer need not be true. Even a false proposition points, because God is free from the limitations of abstract truth and can reveal himself in false statements as easily as in true.

For the neo-orthodox, “The word of God is within the Bible.” 

That is not to say that parts of the Bible are the Word of God, and parts of it are not. Rather all of the Bible, whether true or false, may be the Word of God, if it reveals God to me. If it does not, then it is not the Word of God. The Bible is not true, it becomes true. “With this conscious reservation, that we are saying something that we do not know, that is true only when it becomes true, let the page now be turned, and the Bible’s final suggestion be taken up (as a suggestion!).”

The Bible cannot command -- it is not knowable; it becomes true, but truth cannot be known. Indeed, one could almost say that in reality, the Word of God is not in the Bible, but rather in us, and the Bible stimulates us to find it there. The Word of God is a “Mysterium tremendum that draws the men of the Bible before our eyes out and on to the edge of all experience, thought, and action, to the edge of time and history, and impels them to attempt to leap off into the air, where obviously no man can stand.” Here is the existential leap of faith -- no knowing, only believing.

In fact, the Word of God, and God himself ultimately become one. “We are asked to drop all metaphysics once and for all. When speaking of God’s transcendence we are not to think of some being existing in self-contained form prior to his relation to man. God is identical with his revelation.”

Such is the Word of God to the neo-orthodox. It is vague, mysterious, unknowable, never certain. In the paradox of Scripture, in the midst of its absurdity, one finds God in experience, in the midst of tension. Such an experience cannot really be communicated, and indeed no two will be alike.

So where is biblical authority in all this? Why do we believe? That is the crucial question.

It must surely be obvious that in a system where truth is subjective, and any claim to certainty is regarded as “sin”, that all authority must be subjective.

We find men everywhere who desire to acknowledge as from God only such Scriptures as ‘find them,” -- who cast the clear objective enunciation of God’s will to the mercy of the currents of thought and feeling which sweep up and down in their own souls.

Custer says that “every man’s mind becomes his own authority.”

It is true that the illumination of the Holy Spirit is often appealed to, to deliver from subjectivism.

Let it be said that both positions [Roman Catholic and neo-orthodox] invoke the Holy Spirit, the former as author of both Scripture and tradition, the latter as illuminating mind and conscience to enable each individual to formulate his personal understanding of Christianity.

We will deal more with this later, but let it be said here that this sounds good -- if it would work. But many people who all claim to be illuminated by the Spirit have contradictory views. You may say that the other person is not being led by the Spirit, really, and is therefore wrong. But on what basis are you going to argue that? If only by your own illumination by the Spirit, how do you test your own? How do you know yours is not false, and his is not true? And you cannot argue from Scripture, because it is in error, and illumination is supposed to be what clears it up. You have to decide who’s illumination is true before you know what Scripture is true.

Of course, in neo-orthodoxy it really doesn’t matter; both may be correct, for truth is not certainty, but experience. In any case, authority is subjective and therefore not adequate.

The truth is that the neo-orthodox enterprise of trying to re-establish the authority of biblical teaching on salvation while rejecting biblical teaching on Scripture is inherently inconsistent and self-contradictory; thus, all versions of neo-orthodoxy, like all versions of liberalism before them, exhibit a built-in arbitrariness that it is not possible to eliminate.

Though evangelicals may not follow neo-orthodoxy in its extreme, their borrowing from it results in the same subjectivity. Berkeley Michelsen, writing in Biblical Authority says, “In whatever way man responds to God, man establishes God’s authority.” Surely that is saying essentially the same as Barth did? God has no authority objectively -- it is in the individual personal response that authority is born. Such authority can only be subjective. Rogers and Hubbard also seem very near neo-orthodoxy, with the idea that Scripture is not all the word of God and that the real truth of Scripture is unfalsifiable and is accepted by what amounts to a blind faith.

Perhaps it should be mentioned in passing that many inerrantists who continually find “guidance” in Scripture apart from it’s contextual meaning are practicing neo-orthodoxy. Such guidance is in an unfalsifiable position, being unrelated to the meaning of the text, and essentially amounts to a claim of direct revelation from God. We must be careful not to base our actions and beliefs on such purely subjective grounds as this.

There is no escape of subjectivism on any level of neo-orthodoxy, and thus it provides no adequate authority.

The fifth major area of attempt at securing authority without inerrancy is by substituting a new view of truth. We said at the beginning of this paper that the classic view of truth was a correspondence view, or non-contradiction. Such a view says that truth is what corresponds to reality. And of course, error is what does not correspond to reality. This means that truth is a characteristic of propositions, not of reality. Reality is, truth is a statement that is in line with that reality. Reality is neither true or false. A lie can be real, but it is not true. In this view, a true person is one who is trustworthy -- he always makes true statements.

There is a new view of truth being applied today. It is an intentionalist view of truth. In other words, a statement is true if it accomplishes what the author intended it to accomplish. Now in this case, a statement might be true even if some or all of its content does not correspond with reality. On the other hand, if it does not accomplish its purpose, it is false even if all the information in it is factually correct.

Also, by this view, a person could be regarded as true, if he lives up to someone’s intentions for him. Under this view, the Bible could be true, even if it has factually incorrect statements in it. Minor errors are immaterial, because they do not hinder the salvation message from getting across.

This appears like a very convenient view of truth for the errantist to adopt. Let’s examine it a little more closely, however, and see some of its implications.

In this view a lie is, if not impossible, at least nearly impossible to discover. If a person tells something that is not correct, with the intent to deceive, then he told the truth, if in fact he did deceive. Thus, to be adept at deceiving is virtuous, by this view, and a person who is a great deceiver is the most true. Satan becomes, then, nearly as true as God, for he is the great deceiver.

In this view also, the 9th commandment does not make sense. “Do not bear false witness” would have to mean that everything you say must accomplish its purpose. But surely that is partly relative to your neighbor? If you intend to inform him, and he is a real idiot, you might be a liar no matter how hard you try, and you could not help but break that commandment.

Though there may be a measure of value in the intention view of truth, it is obviously inadequate. Courts of justice are a farce, by this view.

Errantists generally do not take this view to its logical conclusion, but let’s notice how they do make use of it, Berkouwer comments thus:

For if instrumentality is related to this one central witness, then the term “continuity” can legitimately by used in the doctrine of the God-breathed Scripture without falling into dualism. For this is in harmony with the purpose of God-breathed Scripture. One can never have a clear conception of the latter when it is “formally” approached under the category of correctness or conformity with reality; it must be approached in direct relation to the nature and content of Scripture. For the purpose of the God-breathed Scripture is not at all to provide a scientific gnosis, in order to convey and increase human knowledge and wisdom; but to witness of the salvation of God unto faith. This approach does not mean to separate faith and knowledge. But the knowledge that is the unmistakable aim of Scripture is the knowledge of faith, which does not increase human wisdom, but is life eternal (Jn. 17:3).

He claims not to separate faith and knowledge. Yet such is the inevitable result of his view. If Scripture truth is governed by its purpose, then it is intentional, and is clearly a different kind of truth than scientific truth; or else, if scientific truth is also intentional, then it is meaningless. Dualism is not avoided.

He says later on,

It is not that Scripture offers us no information but that the nature of this information is unique. It is governed by the purpose of God’s revelation. The view of inspiration that forms the basis of the misunderstanding of this purpose considers “inerrancy” essential as a parallel characterization of reliability; that is a flight of fancy away from this purpose.

There is one more basic fallacy of this whole view. There are only two options. If Scripture must be interpreted according to its goal, then one must ask the question, “How do I find the goal.” If it is in Scripture, then I must interpret Scripture to find that goal, and at the same time interpret it according to that goal, which means that I must presuppose it. If I find the goal outside of Scripture, on the other hand, then I have an extra biblical authority over Scripture. There is no solution to this dilemma. Either way, my authority has become subjective.

At the same time, this view also destroys the unity of truth, as we have already intimated. Hubbard says, “Error theologically must mean that which leads us astray from the will of God or the knowledge of his truth.”

There is a definite discrepancy here between God’s truth, and other truth. If Jesus Christ is the Truth (John 14:6), and if God is the final absolute upon which all truth rests, the creator and sustainer, then surely all truth is his truth, and no truth is unimportant, or unrelated to any other truth. A scientist who discovers new truth about the universe is doing God’s will, as it was given to Adam. If we divide truth, we have lost our basis for rationality.

Obviously, as well, the intentionalists do not hold their view consistently. For example, Hubbard accused Lindsell of false statements about Fuller. But to do so, he had to revert to a correspondence view of truth. They use intention to interpret Scripture, but correspondence when criticizing.

At other times they use their theory well for their own convenience. Woodbridge says of Rogers and McKim, “The apologetic variety of history which Rogers and McKim write will make some professional historians wince.” Yet surely, manipulation of history is consistent with their view of truth. If it accomplishes its aim of persuading people to their view, it is true, whether it is correct or not, factually.

Another area of subjectivity in this view that should be mentioned is that it makes truth depend upon the receiver. It might be consistently argued, by intentionalism, that the Bible is true for such people as accept it, and false for such as refuse it.

There are two more methods of attempting to retain authority which we want to mention only briefly, and more study needs to be done into these two areas. The first is what I call “spiritualism.” We mentioned it once before in dealing with neo-orthodoxy. It is the view that the Holy Spirit enables us to discern between the truth and error of Scripture.

There is no doubt that illumination is a very important doctrine, and deserves far more attention than it gets. Packer says:

Bible commentaries, Bible classes, Bible lectures and courses, plus the church’s regular expository ministry, can give us fair certainty as to what scripture meant (and we should make full use of them to that end), but only through the Spirit’s illumination shall we be able to see how the teaching applies to us in our own situation.

But is it adequate to insure objective authority in the face of an errant Bible?

Hubbard thinks that it is. He says:

What proof did the prophets need to test whether God was speaking to them? Nothing but the power of that word itself. What proof did the Thessalonicans need that Paul’s gospel was true? Nothing but the conviction of God the Holy Spirit. What proof do we need to know whether the Bible is the Word of God? Nothing but the Spirit of God speaking to us in Scripture.

Actually, Hubbard’s examples are unfortunate, because although the prophets did not demand proof, God told the people not to believe them unless all that they said came to pass (Deut. 18:22), and Paul commended the Bereans, because they did not accept what he had to say without test, but being more noble than the Thessalonicans, they searched the Scripture to test the truth of Paul’s gospel. But Hubbard is not the only one who appeals to the Spirit.

Dr. Cremer was called upon to write the article “Inspiration” in the second edition of Herzog’s “realencyklopedia” (Vol. vi, sub. voc; pp. 745 seq.) which saw the light in 1880. In preparing this article he was led to take an entirely new view of the meaning of Qeopneustos, according to which it defines Scripture, in II Tim. iii. 16, not according to its origin, but according to its effect -- not as “inspired of God,” but as “inspiring its readers.”

Pinnock also seeks his authority in the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

I have come to place greater confidence in the power of the Spirit to make the Bible come alive for believers than I did before ... . Stress on the Spirit is noticeably lacking in the literature of inerrancy. I think it reveals a preoccupation with apologetic certainty....

If one is an errantist, then the only way to maintain authority is to assume that the Spirit enables us to differentiate between error and truth in Scripture. It is not enough to say that he helps us to understand it, for that does not deal with the problem. That the Spirit teaches us to understand it is the inerrantist position. There is no point in understanding error. Indeed, it cannot be understood, really, because error is unreasonable, and what is unreasonable cannot be understood.

The problem is, then, who’s witness of the Spirit is authoritative? Supposing two of us hold contradictory views as to what is error and what is true, both claiming the Spirit’s guidance. Unless you have something to test against, there is no reason for anybody to believe you before me. The authority is therefore subjective, and for that reason inadequate; it is inescapable.

The final attempt is that of direct revelation. This is at present uncommon among evangelicals, though it is the rule among cultists. But it is the next logical step from “spiritualism”; in fact, spiritualism is a disguised form of direct revelation. In spiritualism, the Spirit gives me direct revelation as to the true canon within the Bible. In direct revelation, I am not restricted to the Bible.

Pache says, ”Almost every heresy and sect has originated in a supposed revelation or a new experience on the part of its founder, something outside the strictly biblical framework.”

This is the ultimate result of acceptance of extra biblical and subjective authority. It is inadequate for precisely the same reasons as is spiritualism, so we will not bother to further refute it, but refer the reader back to that section.

 

To conclude our investigation of authority, let us note that without inerrancy, we have no adequate authority;

If it is finally settled that Scripture can err, then the church and its theologians will learn that no source and no standard remains to solve further doctrinal problems that may arise.

When we have no adequate authority, our doctrines have no secure base.

Where this [inerrancy] confession is not made, Scripture will not all be taken with all seriousness, elements of its teaching will inevitably be ignored, and the result, as Lindsell and Schaeffer with others correctly foresee, is bound to be a certain diminution of supernatural Christian faith -- as we have seen in the various versions of liberalism, neo-orthodoxy, and “biblical theology” and as we must now expect to see in new forms in tomorrow’s Roman Catholicism.

 

I am saying that whether it takes five years or fifty years any denomination or para-church group that forsakes inerrancy will end up shipwrecked. It is impossible to prevent the surrender of other important doctrinal teachings of the Word of God when Inerrancy is gone.

It may be argued by some that inerrancy does not provide any more adequate authority then does errancy.  Pinnock argues, with many others, that inerrancy is really not valid, since we all admit errors in our copies. Surely this argument can be seen through, since with the matter of the text we have variations, and we are quite aware what they are. Most of the text is quite certain.

The second argument is more difficult to refute; namely, that Scripture cannot be understood until it is interpreted, and that any interpretation will be subjective, since it will be colored by our background, education, etc. Now it may be true that interpretation has subjective elements in it, but it does not need to be wholly so. If language is valid, then much of Scripture will be obvious without much interpretation. The more precise the language, and the more objective it is, the less interpretation is involved. Also, we have something to test our interpretation against. We believe in the validity of reason. We recognize that man’s reason is fallen and so tainted. But though we may not be able, by reason, to understand infallibly, when the Holy Spirit points out inconsistency to us (error) in our interpretation, we can recognize it if we will. We have an objective base to argue from, whatever material we must deal with subjectively. We have an objective authority, infallible in all it touches, and therefore adequate.Inerrancy and. Authority

 

 

 

 

With all the talk of inerrancy, limited inerrancy, and various other  questions about the Bible today, it may sometimes be forgotten that what is actually at stake is the issue of authority. It is not a question of whether or not we have an authority. Montgomery, in writing about Romanism, says:

Surely some final authority must exist, and it would. appear that it now rests in the New Shape Roman theologian and. his community of like-minded. souls. There is thus more than irony in the definition of infallibility in Dominican Maurice Lelong’s “New Church Lexicon”: “The scandal of Vatican I. Infallibility can only be collective and. popular.” Inerrancy can no longer focus on one book or one man; it is now corporate and. democratic! Does this suggest the profound truth that no one ever dispenses with authority - one only relocates it?

Authority always exists. The question is, is my authority adequate? Where is it located?

I contend that, although any view of scripture allows for some kind of authority, without inerrancy there can be no adequate authority for the questions facing us.

This is not presented as a proof of inerrancy. It simply does not follow that because we need an adequate authority, therefore we must have it. If inerrancy of Scripture is false, my contention is that we do not have an adequate authority, and if we do not have an adequate authority, we will have to live without one - or we can commit suicide, and. if the Bible is errant, we have no authority great enough to tell us we must not do so.

In order to present my arguments clearly, it is important to the reader know where I am coming from. Many writers today do not begin by establishing their presuppositions, perhaps with the hope that the reader will think they don’t have any. But no one ever thinks without presuppositions, and for this reason, every argument is actually circular. The logical positivist, who claims to work inductively from primary information, still has to presuppose the validity of reason, or his senses.

Not only do all arguments carry presuppositions, but presuppositions are very difficult to refute, because before they can be falsified they must be given up. They cannot be proven or dis-proven.

That is not to say, however, that no argument can be persuasive. J. M. Frame brings this out clearly.

A “proof” of, say, the primacy of reason, can be highly persuasive and logically sound even though, at one level, circular. The circularity is rarely blatant; it lurks in the background.. One never says, “reason is true because reason says it is.” One says instead, “Reason is true because one must presuppose it even to deny it.” The second. argument is just as circular as the first. Both presuppose the validity of reason. But in the second argument the presupposition is implicit rather than explicit. And the second one is highly persuasive! The irrationalist cannot help but note that he is (in many cases) presenting his irrationalism in a highly rational way. He is trying to be more rational than the rationalist - a contradictory way to be! He must decide either to be a more consistent irrationalist (but note the paradox of that!) or to abandon his irrationalism. Of course, he might renounce consistency altogether, thus renouncing the presupposition of the argument. But the argument shows him vividly how hard it is to live without rationality. The argument is circular, but it draws some important facts to his attention. The argument is persuasive though circular because down deep in our hearts we know that we cannot live without reason.

 

Again he says:

A Christian Theist, while conceding that the argument for God’s existence is circular, nevertheless will claim that the argument is sound and persuasive, for he devoutly believes that his position is true, and he believes that it can be recognized clearly as such. He believes that God made man to think in terms of this circularity, rather than in terms of some competing circularity.”

While conceding that my arguments will be ultimately circular, and admitting my presuppositions right from the start, as I believe any honest writer ought to do, I still believe that the arguments presented will be reasonable and, hopefully, persuasive.

 

Basic presuppositions of this paper

 

Firstly, in this paper I am presupposing the validity of reason, or more specifically, the principle of non-contradiction. Actually, anyone who ever sits down to write, or even anyone who converses with anyone, has in practice presupposed. the validity of reason, for without reason, all communication is nonsense, and it is foolish to attempt it. It stands to reason that if my propositions can contradict reality, and if I can contradict myself, then in fact I will have communicated nothing to anyone; reason is therefore essential to communication.

Indeed, one cannot even do away with reason unreasonably. To deny reason, one must first assume it, as Frame pointed out above.

Secondly, I am presupposing the validity of language as a means of expressing truth.

There is a contemporary view of language that claims that language is incapable of conveying truth about God. Indeed, some linguists go so far as to say that language cannot be true at all, because of the discrepancy between the word and the object. But there is an immediate problem with this proposition. If we say, “Language cannot convey truth,” then we must ask, is that a true statement? If it is a true statement, then it is false, for it has just done what it said could not be done. And if it is false, on the other hand, then it is eliminated.

So language can convey truth; if it could not people would not talk, because it would be practically meaningless to do so. But what about God-talk? Is that, perhaps meaningless?

David Hume, the skeptical empiricist, was convinced that God-talk is non-sense. Geisler writes concerning his principle,

According to this principle, a statement, to be meaningful, must either be true by definition, (such as “all triangles have three sides”) or else it must be verifiable by one or more of the five senses. The principle, of course, proved to be too narrow (since it eliminated even some scientific statements) and had to be revised. But the conclusion reached by Ayer and other semantical atheists after him is still with us, namely that all God-talk is meaningless.”

 

This is also the basic idea of the logical positivist. But how do we answer it? It is true that much God’-talk cannot be verified, or falsified, by the senses. Is it therefore meaningless?

We must realize that God-talk is a language of presupposition. And as we said before, presupposition resists falsification. Indeed, the presuppositions of the logical positivist (the validity of logic, and the senses) cannot be empirically tested, and. so are non-sense by their own standard!

Obviously, God-talk is valid when viewed in that light. In fact, the idea that language is useless is based on the presupposition that language evolved. We presuppose, rather, that language was given to man by God, and is therefore meaningful. It cannot convey all there is to know about God, but it can express something about God validly and truthfully.

Even though the argument of this paper is not based on inerrancy, there can be no question that it is a presupposition that will color the content of the paper, and so I include it as my third presupposition. Some may feel that this is not truly a presupposition, since it seems to be arguable without circularity, but in reality it is not. Let us follow the argument closely. Warfield gives the basis of the doctrine clearly.

We believe this doctrine of the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures primarily because it is the doctrine which Christ and his apostles believed, and which they have taught to us. It may sometimes seem difficult to take our stand frankly by the side of Christ and his apostles. It will always be found safe.

In the same vein, Montgomery says, “Logically, if the Bible is not inerrant, though Jesus thought it was, He can hardly be the incarnate God He claimed to be and for whom the same claims are made by his apostles.”

I believe that the evidence from Scripture that Christ did believe in inerrancy has been adequately given by other writers, but we may cite, for example, Matt. 5:18, and Luke 14:17, or Matt. 22:43, demonstrating that Christ argued the very words of the Psalm. But one might say, “You are taking your evidence that Christ believed in inerrancy of Scripture from Scripture, and must therefore presuppose it’s inerrancy, since if it is not inerrant, then it may be in error at the points of Christ’s view of Scripture.” I must respond, that is correct. Thus, inerrancy is a presupposition, howbeit, I believe, a valid one.

Finally, a point that is more of a clarification than a presupposition. We must differentiate between a system of hermeneutics, and a statement regarding the nature of Scripture. Some, for example, have argued against inerrancy, saying that the Bible does not speak with scientific accuracy, i.e. that it often rounds numbers, etc. Now, that may be a sound principle of interpretation, or it may not, but it has nothing to say about whether the Bible is inerrant or not. In fact, it more supports inerrancy than otherwise. Inerrancy is a presupposition which hermeneutics must take into account. Parker expresses this very lucidly in his article, Encountering Present-day views of Scripture.

Though the confession of inerrancy does not help us to make the literary judgments that interpretation involves, it commits us in advance to harmonize and integrate all that we find Scripture teaching, without remainder, and so makes possible a theological grasp of Christianity that is altogether believing and altogether obedient.

There are other presuppositions that it might be useful to the reader to know, but I think most would be summed up adequately by saying that I hold a Theistic World View.

As to the scope of this paper, I am not attempting to defend the doctrine of inerrancy, or even of inspiration. I am only seeking to establish my thesis. I shall begin with a short historical analysis of the concept of truth, and show how views of truth have changed through the past centuries. I will then seek to give a method of building a view of truth, and for testing such views. I will show how the modern views of truth are inadequate, and. why the classic view of truth did not satisfy.

All this is to lay the groundwork for a discussion of authority, because authority is ultimately based on truth. I will describe two kinds of authority, showing the adequacy of one, and the inadequacy of the other.

I will then give the major views of Scripture that various errantists have used in an attempt to preserve an adequate authority for Scripture, and I will show why they cannot do so. In conclusion, I will show how inerrancy does provide an adequate authority.

 

I. A short historical analysis of the concept of truth

The classic view of truth is two-fold. First, truth cannot be contradictory (i.e. A cannot at the same time be non-A), and second, it must correspond with reality. This idea of truth assures two things. First, it assures that truth is a unity, for if a truth cannot be contradictory and still be true, then it follows that a truth from the realm of, say, physics cannot contradict a truth from the realm of biology, or one of them is not true. Or, a truth from the realm of history cannot contradict a truth from the realm of theology, or nature, and so on. So if the law of non-contradiction is valid, then there must be a unity to truth, and if the unifying factor can be discovered, all truth can be correlated.

Secondly, it assures that truth will be objective, for it must correspond to reality. That does not, of course, mean that every real proposition is true. A proposition may be a real proposition and yet not be in line with reality (i.e. a lie). Thus, a true proposition about a proposition that does not line up with reality is “that is a lie,” because that lines up with the reality of the falsity of the first proposition.

Neither does this do away with the validity of subjective or relative truth, because both are actually objective assessments of limited or comparative facts. For example, if a person says, “Spinach is good,” that subjective statement may be objectively true as it pertains to that person if in fact he really likes spinach, or thinks that spinach is good even if he does not like it. If so, it is a valid subjective truth, and it is also objectively true as regards that person.

The classical pagan philosophers were unable to correlate all truth, because they lacked. the unifying factor, i.e. the theistic God. The apostles possessed the unifying factor, and were able to build a valid epistemology that could account for both general principles and particular incidents. But with Thomas Aquinas that began to change. He believed that there was some good in the human intellect, that it was not totally depraved.

Bacon followed his lead. Geisler says of him,

After tearing down the “idols” of the old deductive method of discovering truth, Bacon argued that “the best demonstration by far is experience.” The inductive method, he said, is the true way to interpret nature. One can understand how Bacon could consider inductive logic a valid method for scientific inquiry, but he went far beyond reasonable bounds when he claimed universal applicability for his method.

This means that every general principle had to be derived from experience-able details. The fact that he was assuming a general principle a priori (i.e. that reason is capable of interpreting man’s experiences) did not seem to occur to him.

But what would he do with God? For God could not be discovered inductively. Again from Geisler:

For Bacon and even more clearly for Hobbes who followed him, the Bible serves a religious and evocative function -- it leads us to honor and obey God but does not make cognitive truth claims about God nor affirmations about the physical universe.

What Bacon and Hobbes had done, whether or not they realized it, was to deny either non-contradiction or else the truth of theology. Thus they set the groundwork for the destruction of the unity of truth. For Hobbes, religion is absurd, and must be accepted by blind faith. But why accept it if it is not true? And if it is true, you have two kinds of truth that are contradictory! Unity is destroyed, and essentially, non-contradiction is destroyed.

Immanuel Kant also contributed to the loss of unity. He was an agnostic, and taught that we cannot know, only perceive. We can know the “thing-to-me,” (phenomenal) but not the “thing-in-itself” (noumenal). This gulf is impassible by the nature of knowing (i.e. as Bacon taught it). Although he did not deny objective truth, he said we cannot know it. Facts have nothing to do with values, because facts are what we perceive, values are what are real. So perceptions, in his thinking, are objective, realities subjective.

Kierkegaard followed Kant, also making a fact/value dichotomy, but distinguishing between the factual or propositional and. the personal. The two were unrelated. God is beyond proof, the doctrines of God and of inspiration are unfalsifiable, because totally divorced from reason. God then becomes practically subjective. He can only be known by faith, whereas facts are known by reason. So we have the same dichotomy between theological Truth and. natural truth.

It is interesting that Rogers and McKim attribute this same dichotomy to Calvin:

Calvin did not wish to substitute theology for philosophy. Each had. its own appropriate realm -- theology for matters of salvation and the life of faith, and philosophy for matters of worldly wisdom and practice.

It is hard to conceive of Calvin as a modern man!

The third stage is a move to irrationality. Following Bacon’s lead, and moving from specifics to universals, man finally realized that he had to give up the rationality of faith, and theology, but not only that. Everything had to be irrational. Why? Because ideally all facts must be related to a system to be intelligib1e. But man found that facts are so varied that he could not find a system that would cover all of them. He despaired of ever doing so, and concluded that all facts are irrational and unrelated. Rationality is purely a subjective, pragmatic way of looking at things. It must be subjective, because (following Kant) I am the only person that I know exists. I perceive everyone else, and that means they are phenomenal and unknowable. And it must be pragmatic because “If factuality is non-rational, it is expected that rationality will be merely ‘practical’.” It is clear that we cannot live without reason, but if it is unreal, then it must be some make-believe practical system that we adopt to give ourselves security.

Not only does truth become subjective under irrationality, but the way is opened for humanism as well. If my own existence is the only thing I can be sure of, then I must make myself the ultimate reference point for interpreting my perceptions. As Van Til says,

That issue may be stated simply and comprehensively by saying that in the Christian view of things it is the self-contained God who is the final point of reference, while in the case of the modern view it is the would-be self-contained man who is the final point of reference in all interpretation.”

We will see later on what this does to authority.

 

II. An adequate test for systems of truth

If we are ever to arrive at some idea of what truth is, we must have a test by which we evaluate each view of truth.

The first thing we must not do is formulate a test that will, by definition, rule out any view of truth but what we want truth to be. For example, Hume argued against miracles by defining a miracle as something that never happens. If we accept that definition, then of course there are no miracles in reality, because as soon as something happens it is not a miracle, by the definition. Such an argument is not valid. It is a misuse of language.

An adequate view of truth must be able to account for everything; every fact, every observation, every feeling, every illusion. There must be nothing in the universe that is not covered by the system. The only alternative is to give up rationality, and we have shown in the introduction how difficult that is. We should not give it up until we have tried every possibility.

But how can we go about building a system of truth that will cover everything? I would like to suggest that we search for truth in the same way that the legendary Sherlock Holmes sought for criminals.

In the first place, we must not pretend to think without presuppositions. If we think we do, we are deceiving ourselves, and a self-deceived person will never arrive at truth. In fact, our system of truth, ultimately, is our presupposition. So what we really have to test are our presuppositions.

Secondly, we must not limit ourselves to any one way of thinking. Some thinkers have tried to reason from pure deduction, but have not been able to deduce all that is. Others, like Bacon, have tried to reason from induction only, but have not been able to put all their facts into any one system. But is it inconceivable that both methods of thinking could be used together? It ought to be attempted.

Thirdly, one must not rule out, a priori, any system of truth simply because it carries obligations with it, or would demand change of us. That is dishonesty.

How did Holmes operate? He took the facts that he had, and from them induced. several general theories. From these theories he deduced further facts that ought to exist if the theory were correct. Then he would begin to look for those facts. If they did not, in reality, exist, he tried a different theory, and tested it in the same way. At the same time, again inducing, if he discovered a fact that did not fit the theory, he altered or expanded the theory, or else dropped it, and continued on from there.

If we apply this method to modern systems of thought, we are faced with some grave difficulties. Both irrationality and subjectivism are out of line with our minds -- and our minds are part of what is there. Neither one can account for it. We find it impossible to think in a totally irrational manner. Both leave us with subjective truth, and. yet we cannot live with that either, for we are forever trying to persuade other people to think like we do, or at least thinking that they are wrong in the way they think. But if truth is subjective, then nobody is wrong, and. if that were true, we would not think that they are wrong. We are contradicting our presuppositions to suppose so.

Let us postulate a pantheistic world view. Can it account for all that is? Well, it says that all is unity. But is that all there is? Don’t we experience diversity? Ah, yes, but that appearance of diversity is illusion. But surely the illusion is something different from the reality? For if illusion and reality were the same thing, we would never know the difference. Pantheism cannot account for all there is.

Perhaps the universe is all chance. Will that explain all there is? From that premise, we would naturally expect the universe to be random. There is, in that view, no real cause and effect. Why should chance move in an orderly way? We never experience it so. But the world seems to be orderly, not random. And if all is chance, the universe should be impersonal. But that does not account for man, who at least appears to be personal. And if all is chance, why don’t we live that way? Why are we careful what we eat, what we do, etc? For if all is chance, then when I jump off a bridge, I never know if I will fall or not. Chance cannot account for all that is.

Perhaps someone would argue that the classic view of truth as objective and unified has not been able to explain all there is either. We would reply that those who did not find it adequate built it on too narrow a foundation. It can account for all there is, if one admits the possibility of a theistic God.

Working from the general hypothesis of a theistic God, one would expect order in the universe. And in fact, the universe seems to be orderly. One would expect some evidence of personality, and man seems to be personal. A correlation between man and his environment would be expected, and we find such a correlation. We would expect man to have a moral sensibility, and he does. We would. expect a correlation between man’s thoughts, and the place in which he lives, and man does tend to think in terms of correspondence.

We could go on and on. It is granted that an adequate application of this method is beyond the power of the pen, but it is also believed that if anyone will look honestly at the issue, he will see that as there are only a limited number of possibilities, and only one will account for all that is, it must be correct. And if it is, then we have preserved rationality -- unity and objectivity.

 

III. The question of authority

The next question confronting us is, what about authority? What is it? What constitutes an adequate authority?

The dictionary gives several definitions of the word. For example, “A citation (as from a book) used in defense or support of ones actions, opinions, or beliefs,” or “power to require and receive submission: the right to expect obedience.”

Both carry with them the idea of a control of actions and beliefs. Authority is the reason behind what I do and think. Authority is the “ought” of life. Perhaps authority is not necessary, in the ultimate sense of the word, but none the less, “no one ever dispenses with authority, one only relocates it.” Every man attempts always to show reasons why he is right, or why he did what he did, and if he does not, it is because he considers himself the ultimate authority.

J.I. Packer comments that “only truth can have final authority to determine belief and behavior.” The idea is that the “ought” says that I must bring my beliefs and behavior into line with what is true.

But why should I believe what is true? What is wrong with believing something that is false? To many, this question may seem absurd. Of course, it is stupid to deliberately believe a falsehood. But it is a legitimate question none the less. So again I ask, why? Because it is necessary for survival. I will not live long, physically if I refuse to live according to the physical reality of the universe. But even more important, I will not survive spiritually without living in harmony with the spiritual reality of the universe.

Not only does authority involve the demand that we line up with truth, it also involves how we discover truth. Everything we believe we believe on authority. We accept on authority that Julius Caesar was a Roman Emperor. Our authority is history, or more correctly, historians. Our authority for believing something may be another person, or a book, or our own senses, or our own reason. But we always believe by assuming the authority of our source of knowledge. We cannot know without authority.

 

Finally, authority must be as general as the class to which it refers. For example, human beings are all a part of the material universe. Therefore the realities of matter have authority over all mankind. Every man, to survive, must live in line with material reality. No one is exempt from the authority of the reality of gravity. Every unsupported body within the gravitational dominance of the earth falls toward the earth.

So a man needs two things; his authority must be able to tell him what reality is, and also how to live in harmony with the reality.

Authority is based on truth. Therefore since we have two basic concepts of truth, we have also two ideas of authority.

If, as many claim, truth is subjective, then authority is also subjective. The idea of subjective truth is based on the assumption that all that is real is in the subject. The material universe may not be real, nor other people either. All that I know is real is myself. Subjective authority says that the only reality I must line up with is myself, and that I myself can be trusted as the source of truth regarding myself. Now, if in fact reality only involves myself, then subjective authority is adequate. But if reality can apply to things other than myself, such authority is not adequate, because it does not account for all of reality. In fact, truth is not subjective, and this is illustrated by the fact that not even the subjectivists live as though it were. If they do, they don’t live. Even a subjectivist will get out of the way of a Mack truck, if he sees it. Why? Because he recognizes and submits to the objective authority of the laws of motion. Objective authority is adequate, for it accounts for the Mack truck. Subjective authority is not adequate, and the subject knows it.

Some would say that we need objective authority in the material realm, but that subjective authority is adequate in the spiritual realm.

More than a century ago, he [Schleiermacher] taught that the true source of theology was not the Bible but man’s religious consciousness. Thus the objective revelation of God in the Bible was set aside, and man’s subjective opinions were exalted to the position of authority.

Again, the only possible way to hold this is to assume that man is the only spiritual reality in the universe. If there is a God who is real, subjective authority cannot account for him.

It may be argued that objective authority is not adequate either, because it demands that I be in harmony with all of reality, and I cannot know all of reality. By this argument, I should not be surviving. This objection is invalid on two counts. Not all of reality is applicable to me directly and at all times. If there are no elephants where I live, then truths about elephants may not be applicable to me at present. Secondly, it does not take the theistic God into account. If he is the creator, then we can expect him to be in harmony with all of reality. And therefore, if we are in harmony with him, we will be in harmony with all of reality. That does not mean that we approve of all reality. The way to be in harmony with the reality of sin, for example, is to hate it, and expect it to be judged, finally.

In summary, subjective authority is not adequate, because it takes myself only into account. If there is any reality there, besides myself, subjective authority cannot account for it, and any attempt to do so is no more authoritative than anyone elses' attempt.

Objective authority, on the other hand, is adequate if the source is dependable and knowledgeable. Keep in mind that a source may be dependable and knowledgeable in a limited sphere, and so be adequate authority in that limited sphere, but remain an inadequate authority in a broader sphere. For example, our senses are a reliable source of objective authority, in a limited. sphere (the material) and when their frailties are taken into account (i.e. one must be tested against the other, for our senses may be deceiving; and their limits must be recognized). That the senses are a relatively objective authority is seen in the fact that by following them we manage to survive, whereas when they are impaired (i.e. as through alcohol consumption), non-survival increases. But our senses, on the other hand , are not an adequate objective authority for direct spiritual awareness.

 

 

IV. The search for authority in errancy

 

There are perhaps two main reasons why many evangelicals have repudiated the inerrancy of Scripture. The first is because of apparent internal contradictions. They believe that there are things in Scripture that do not harmonize; such as various dates, etc. The second reason is that they believe there are things in Scriptures that contradict the findings of science. Berkouwer tacitly admits this, when he says, “This has gone hand in hand with an increasing revulsion against ‘harmonism’ and ‘concordism’ phenomena which all too often advance a view of Scripture that demands too much of it.”

Stephen Davis says that the Bible should be authoritative for every Christian on all that it says on any subject until he comes across something which he judges that he, for good reasons, cannot accept.

What the errantists may not realize is that they had to shift their authority before they could assert that there are any errors in the Bible. If scripture is our absolute authority, then what contradicts it must be wrong, and contradictions within it must be apparent, and should be possible to harmonize with proper hermeneutics and further light. Only if I, a priori, admit that there are other authorities at least equal to Scripture, can I admit to errors in Scripture. This attitude toward Scripture is not in the least a necessary one. Better scholarship is constantly reducing the internal conflicts in Scripture, and science is a very unstable pillar to build one’s authority upon. It is continually changing its dogmas. For example, Scripture was once scoffed at for talking about the sun rising, (though every scientist, in everyday language, speaks of the sunrise and sunset). But now, with the advent of relativity, scientist say that it really doesn’t matter whether you speak of the sun going around the earth, or the earth around the sun; it all depends on your frame of reference, anyway. We have no way of knowing for sure which way it is. So old concepts of science are shown to be out of date, and if the Bible is allowed to change by every whim of science, it may be false today and true tomorrow.

Errantists have recognized that with their view of inspiration, Biblical authority was placed on a flimsy foundation, and have proposed a variety of theories to maintain the authority of an errant Scripture. But none of them are adequate to do so, as we shall see in the remainder of this paper.

In these systems there is bound to be overlap, as they all have some things in common, and a few things are common to all. This should be kept in mind as we proceed.

The first theory that we will examine is the theory of accommodation, or adaptation.

The basic idea of this theory is that God accommodated himself to humanity in the Scriptures in order to make them comprehensible to man, and in so doing, had to incorporate errors. It is often likened to a little child who’s father talks to him in a truncated language, accommodating himself to the child’s vocabulary and understanding. Pinnock uses this argument, claiming that it is not necessary for the Bible to be inerrant just because it is inspired, because God uses fallible human beings all the time to proclaim his word, and he accomplishes his purpose by it.

There are several assumptions of this view that should be pointed out. First, that the Bible errs because it presents things as they appear, rather than as they are. Second, the idea that if God accommodates himself to human language, he must err, because humans err. Thirdly, the idea that because the Bible emphasizes certain things, it may err in what it dots not emphasize. And finally, because it is written by men, it must err, because men err.

This view is often taken further, to say that God not only accommodated himself to human language, but to the Hebrew thought forms and to the contemporary culture as well.

An integral and practical part of the theory of accommodation is the separation of the “human” and “divine” elements of Scripture. Pinnock says, “Although Protestant orthodoxy confesses both the divine and the human element in the Bible, as it also does in Christology, it has been happier affirming its divine authority than admitting its human characteristics.” He says further, “The prime theological issue which became evident in our survey of options on biblical authority is the need to maintain with equal force both the humanity and the divinity of the word of Scripture.”

The idea of this dichotomy is that the Bible is the writing of men, written with their own peculiar literary style, their own backgrounds, viewpoints, world views, education, and so on as a foundation for that writing. It is contended that they must have erred, since their world view would be as erroneous as their contemporaries’.

 

In fact, there is a legitimate idea of accommodation. God did condescend to speak in human language. There is no other way for him to make himself intelligible to man. But it does not follow that language therefore must err, in that it is human. A father, in accommodating himself to a small child, does not necessarily misinform him, simply because he is speaking a child language. Although he may not be able to give comprehensive truth, in the sense of saying all that could be said, due to the child’s limited understanding, what he says can still be precise. Neither is strict precision always necessary, and when it is not needed lack of it is not a fault. I may, in everyday conversation, speak of the “five mile corner.” That is adequate and true, for in normal usage, nobody would expect me to say “five miles, three feet, four point zero zero one six three inches.” It would not mean anything to anyone anyway. Rounding is an accepted language procedure.

Young demonstrates that within the context of a Biblical view of truth there is room for crudity and roughness of literary style, including improper grammatical structure, variations of parallel accounts of events, discourses, etc. but not room for contradiction or deception. Phenomenological, anthropomorphic, hyperbolic, etc. forms of language do not negate or falsify truth.

Human language may err, but it does not necessarily do so. As to God accommodating himself to Hebrew thought forms, there is, of course, a nucleus of truth here. The Old Testament is written in Hebrew, in Hebrew style, and reflecting Hebrew thought. But although a language does reflect the thought forms of a culture, it is not bound to them. James Barr argues that it is an unsound linguistic procedure to make the supposed thought structure of a language group dictate the possible meanings of the words in that language. Although the language may reflect the thought patterns of a group, it can express truths not dominant in the particular thought pattern. It is true that to interpret correctly, we must be aware of such things, but that is hermeneutics. It does not follow that the Bible errs.

Again, it is argued that Scripture adapts to and reflects human culture, and. so must err. To put it more clearly, the Bible can be discounted where it touches on culture, because it was only reflecting the culture of the day, and that culture is not necessarily right. Of this idea Warfield says:

The fact is that the theory of ‘accommodation’ is presented by Mr. Stuart only to enable him the more easily to refuse to be bound by the apostolic teaching in this matter, and as such it has served him as a stepping stone by which he has attained to an even more drastic principle, on which he practically acts: that wherever the apostle can be shown to agree with their contemporaries, their teaching may be neglected.

It obviously does not follow that agreement with contemporaries indicates error, especially as it may be noticed that on many points the Bible counters current culture.

Perhaps the overall argument here is that the Bible, as a human book, must be subject to error, but that in it’s divine aspect, it is authoritative. This may sound reasonable, but three things need to be realized. First, because it is a human book, it does not necessarily err. Christ was human, and yet did not err. This we must hold to, for “had he been mistaken... the church could well ask whether any single teaching of Jesus on any subject (including the way of salvation) might not also reflect his sincere misunderstanding.” To postulate that Jesus erred is to destroy his authority. Secondly, if the Bible errs because it is human, the Holy Spirit, as supervisor of the work, must still be held responsible for all errors. Let us imagine an executive secretary, who’s boss instructs her to write a letter, giving such and such information, and when it is finished, to bring it to him for his signature. She writes the letter, couching it in her own style, her own vocabulary, and so on. She brings it to the boss, he reads it and signs it. When he puts his signature on it, he is endorsing all it contains. If there are errors in it, he was responsible to catch them and have them corrected before he signed it. He is responsible. In the same sense, the Holy Spirit “signed” the Scriptures. He is responsible for every error. But, though it might have been error through ignorance on the part of the human author, on the part of the Holy Spirit, it is a lie, for he is not ignorant. If the Holy Spirit lies, his authority is destroyed. He cannot be trusted.

Finally, if the Bible is Human and Divine, and the human element admits errors, who or what determines what the errors are, and what is not error? Perhaps it would be advocated that Scripture itself witnesses to the difference. But what principle of Scripture would indicate how to tell its errors from truth? And should we find such a principle, what is to guarantee that the principle itself is not part of the errant matter, and so invalid?

Perhaps we will allow science, in the broadest sense of that term, to determine what is error and what is not. But in that case, science, not the Bible, has become my final authority; and besides, science, or at least scientists, are not infallible. How do I know that they are not in error regarding which parts of Scripture err? Is the authority of fallible scientists adequate for spiritual matters? Will I place my soul’s eternal destiny in their hands? Perhaps you would say that we must use our own judgment as to where science, or the Scripture errs. But now, I am become my own authority. Where do I get my guidelines for discernment? I cannot get them from Scripture; that is what needs discerning. I am left with a subjective authority, and we have already seen that such an authority is totally inadequate,

The concept of accommodation as the errantist present it leaves us without an adequate authority. In the final analysis, it leaves me alone with myself. I cannot know for sure, the validity of anything outside myself.

Before discussing the “limited inerrancy” view, I want to deal briefly with a concept proposed by Berkouwer, that is closely allied with accommodation. It is the idea of “time-boundedness.”

Moreover, the Word finds its way through periods having their own social structures and “cultural patterns” -- customs and concepts relative to the particular period. The Word of God does not remain aloof from this, but is heard in the midst of it. As a result, the time-boundedness of certain admonitions and prohibitions is clear to all. Various statements by Paul regarding womanhood and marriage constitute some of the most discussed illustrations of this particular problem of time-boundness.

The obvious idea is that because the Word is “time-bound” it cannot give objective truth in regards to such things as womanhood. Scripture reflected, not God’s mind, but the mind of the men of the day, in certain things. He gives a further example of this argument.

One should also mention Paul’s ‘argument’ that man was not made from women, but woman from man, and that man is now born of woman (I Cor. 18:8-12). It is evident that one cannot make an inch of progress by speaking of the “correctness” of such words in the abstract.

The implication of what he is saying is clear. Creation is an out-modded, “time-bound” concept (of course God didn’t really make Eve from Adam’s rib. That is only a story, a legend of the Hebrews), and so we don’t believe it. Because Paul’s argument is based on this “time-bound” concept, then it is also time-bound, and we don’t believe it either. But the upshot of it all is, that I can refuse anything in Scripture on that basis, for all of it was written more than one thousand years ago. Who is to determine what has been affected by time, and what has not? Ultimately, I must determine that for myself, according to what seems reasonable to me, and that means that my authority is again subjective. But a subjective authority is not adequate for objective truth.

Berkouwer claims that Paul himself supports the “time-boundedness” idea.

Besides, we note how Paul himself gives an indication of this situation and time-boundedness He emphatically answers questions which have been sent to him (I Cor. 7:1), and he considers something to be right “in view of the impending distress” (I Cor. 7:26).

Actually, this argues against the concept, for the fact that Paul goes out of his way to express the “time-boundedness” of this situation indicates that other situations are not time-bound, else why make a special case of this one?

The second theory that we want to discuss, and perhaps the most popular, is the “limited inerrancy” theory. Benedict Spinoza taught the basic tenant of this view -- that the Bible is authoritative in religious matters only. He carried it further perhaps then modern day evangelicals would, for he said that the Bible has nothing to say to reason; science is for the intellect, religion is for the will. Perhaps he was more consistent than some of his modern counterparts.

Francis Schaeffer explains this view as follows:

The issue is whether the Bible gives propositional truth (that is, truth that may be stated in propositions) where it touches history and the cosmos, and this all the way back to the first eleven chapters of Genesis, or whether instead of that it is only meaningful where it touches that which is considered religious.

 

Harold Lindsell says it this way: “The sum of it is this: Whatever has to do with the gospel in the Bible is inspired and can be trusted; whatever does not have to do with the gospel has errors in it -- it is not inerrant.”

And Geisler quotes Davis: “Davis says, ‘there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible,’ and adds, ‘I have found none on matters of faith and practice.

It is a simple enough theory on the surface, and it looks as if it might do the job of providing an adequate authority without total inerrancy. But if we examine it closely, we find that it has serious problems.

The first serious difficulty is that we must open up the question of canonicity, at least in a practical way. Unless God inspires error, then what is erroneous is not inspired. Even if it is, it cannot stand on the same level as that which is inerrant. Gerstner points out:

We realize that some who disagree with inerrancy are claiming inspiration for parts of the Bible, the so-called salvation parts. Very well, but then they cannot title their position biblical authority but only partial biblical authority. To add insult to injury to God’s Word, they cannot tell precisely what parts of the Bible are inspired. They say “salvation parts,” but they do not tell us where to find these or how to separate them from the uninspired, errant, non-salvation parts.

In his evaluation of Rogers and McKim’s proposals, Woodbridge comments,

The author’s description of the Bible creates for them the same kind of dilemma that neo-orthodox scholars before them faced: how to distinguish the infallible “central saving message” from the errant “difficult surrounding material.” This is a critical problem because Christianity is grounded in the dirt and dust of human history. Salvation truths are planted in the Bible’s historical discourse about things that happened.

Further, R.C. Sproul says,

Evangelical advocates of limited inerrancy are not expected to embrace Bultmann’s mythical view of New Testament super-naturalism. But their method has no inherent safeguard from an arbitrary delimitation of the scope of the biblical canon.

This is a very serious problem, and the answers that are given only raise more problems, as we shall see.

The second major problem is the old problem of unity of truth. The point is that if truth is a unity, then it is all interrelated, and if I believe error in one field of truth, it will affect my beliefs in all areas. Montgomery puts it this ways:

Regardless of how carefully the view point is stated, it necessarily involves a dualism between what is infallibly reliable in the Bible and what is not;... Not only does the Bible itself offer a monistic philosophy, of knowledge, but this viewpoint is necessitated by the very nature of the fields of knowledge themselves. Only the naive specialist really believes that science is qualitatively different from geography, or geography from history, or history from ethics, or ethics from theology.

This point cannot be given up without ultimately giving up rationality. If there is no integral relation between the fields of truth, then truth is not a unity. Jesus made this point, by arguing moral principles on scientific fact.

In short, we cannot separate science and Scripture. When the Bible declares that Jesus was born of a virgin, then it affirms a biological truth as well as a spiritual one. And when Jesus answered the question about divorce by saying, “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the creator ‘made them male and female’” (Matt. 19:4), He not only laid down a moral principle but made a scientific pronouncement as well. The scientific cannot be separated from the spiritual without doing violence to the spiritual.

Montgomery supports this idea when he says,

“Kenotic” (limitation) theories will not solve this dilemma. A meaningful incarnation demands an incarnate God who knows what He is doing -- on earth as it is in heaven -- and tells the truth -- on earth as it is in heaven. This is precisely the Jesus of Gospel accounts: the One who knows that He existed before Abraham, who condemns lying as a mark of the devil, and who so unites reliability in secular” matters with “theological” reliability that He can say to Nicodemus (and to us), “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believed not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things.

This last point of Jesus to Nicodemus would seem to clinch the argument, except that if you believe in errancy, then Jesus may have been in error when he said it.

We must agree with Montgomery when he says further,

The point does not require belaboring~ For practical purposes we may -- perhaps we must -- distinguish between “historical ,“ “geographical,” and “theological” statements in Holy Writ; but these distinctions are no more inherent to reality than the divisions between hand and wrist or trunk and branches. It is thus logically impossible to argue for an alleged perfection resident “spiritually” in Scripture while admitting imperfections in Scriptural knowledge viewed from a “secular” standpoint. Fallibility in the latter necessitates fallibility in the former --and this leaves one incapable of affirming a single doctrinal or moral teaching of the Bible with finality.

Is it any wonder then that those, such as the Roman Catholic exegete Loisy, beginning with “relative inerrancy” (the Bible erroneous only in matters of science and history) and pursuing vigorously the implications of this viewpoint, ultimately conclude “that the principle of relative truth is in fact of universal application”? 

It should be obvious that if we do away with the unity of truth, we are left with a subjective authority; for if truths can contradict, I am left to choose between the contradictory truths. As Sproul says, “How do we escape dehistoricizing the gospel and relegating it to a level of supra-temporal existential ‘decision’?”

It cannot be done, and we are without an adequate authority.

The third serious problem of the limited inerrancy view is that it places the inerrant material in the Bible outside of any test --it cannot be verified or falsified -- and faith becomes blind; a leap in the dark. R.C. Sproul says of this problem,

To those critics outside the fellowship of evangelicals, the notion of “limited inerrancy” appears artificial and contrived. Limited inerrancy gets us off the apologetical hook by making us immune to religious-historical criticism. We can eat our cake and have it too. The gospel is preserved; and our faith and practice remains intact while we admit errors in matters of history and cosmology. We cannot believe the Bible concerning earthly things, but we stake our lives on what it says concerning heavenly things. That approach was totally abrogated by our Lord (John 3:12).

How do we explain and defend the idea that the Bible is divinely superintended in part of its content but not all of it? Which part is inspired? Why only the faith and practice parts? Again, which are the faith and practice parts? Can we not justly be accused of “weaseling” if we adopt such a view? We remove our faith from the arena of historical verification or falsification. This is a fatal blow for apologetics as the reasoned defense of Christianity.

To do this makes experience the only test of truth in the religious realm. And if we do this, what have we left? This move was foreseen by T.H. Huxley, as Schaeffer points out:

T.H. Huxley, the biologist, the friend of Darwin, the grandfather of Aldous and Julian Huxley, wrote in 1890 that he visualized the day not far hence in which faith would be separated from all fact, and especially all pre-Abrahamic history, and that faith would then go on triumphant forever. This is an amazing quote for 1890 before the birth of existential philosophy or existential theology. He indeed foresaw something clearly. I am sure that he and his friends considered this some kind of a joke, because they would have understood well that if faith is separated from fact and specifically pre-Abrahamic space-time history, it is only another form of what we today call a trip.

 

Schaeffer goes on to say:

 

What I quoted in chapter one from T.H. Huxley applies at specifically this place. J.S. Bezzant, an old-fashioned liberal at Cambridge University, in Objections to Christian Belief also puts his finger on the problem of those who separate the portions of Genesis, and the Bible as a whole, that speak of history and the cosmos from those that speak of religious matters. In general, Bezzant speaks against historic Christianity itself, but suddenly he swings around and speaks to neo-orthodoxy. And he says this: “When I am told that it is precisely its immunity from proof which secures the Christian proclamation from the charge of being mythological I reply that immunity from proof can ‘secure’ nothing whatever except immunity from proof, and call nonsense by its name.” The neo-orthodox position is that the Bible makes mistakes in the areas of history and science, but we are to believe it anyway in the religious areas. The result is that religious things simply become “truth” inside one’s head -- just as the drug experience or the Eastern religious experience is “truth” inside of one’s head.

The moment I make truth untestable, it becomes empirical, and it is therefore subjective. If I argue from experience, how can I refute someone elses' experience, which may be different from mine? If Christianity can be said to be true on the basis of experience, then so can Buddhism — for Buddhists also have experience. We have only a subjective authority, and that is not adequate.

It is interesting to note that God gave his people an objective, factual test by which to check the authority of all prophets (Deut. 18:22), and Paul based the truth of Christianity squarely on the historical fact of the resurrection (I Cor. 15:17).

The fourth serious difficulty is closely related to the first. It is simply this. How do I determine what is religious truth and what is not? Lindsell very clearly states the problem.

Once limited inerrancy is accepted, it places the Bible in the same category with every other book that has ever been written. Every book contains in it some things that are true. And what is true is inerrant. Only two things remain to be determined, once this position is acknowledged. The first is what proportion of the book is true and what proportion is false. It may be 90% false and 10% true; or it may be 90% true and 10% false. The second thing that needs to be determined is what parts of the book are true. Since the book contains both truth and falsehood, of necessity, other criteria outside of the book must be brought to bear upon it to determine what is false and what is true. Whatever the source of the other criteria, that becomes the judge of the book in question. Thus the book becomes subordinate to the standard against which it’s truth is determined and measured.

It is clear that the language of Scripture itself cannot tell us which parts are “faith end practice” parts, and which are not. James Barr, himself no friend of inerrancy, makes this plain.

In other words, the sacred tradition of the apostolic church is never purely “religious language,” and still less so is the Old Testament as the sacred tradition of Israel. But the non-religious language of the Bible is of Theological importance just as the religious language is.

If Scripture’s language itself cannot clear up the question, then we must bring an outside source to bear on it. Commenting further on the Rogers McKim proposals, Woodbridge says,

They do say, however, that “ancient principles must be applied using all that we can learn about language and culture from the human and social sciences of the twentieth century” (p. 461). What this means in practicality is that the infallible salvation material can shrink or expand in accordance with the latest givens in higher biblical criticism, cultural anthropology, or findings from other disciplines. As the changing “givens of modernity” set standards for understanding Scripture for Bultmann, so they do for Rogers and McKim. In a word, the believer is obliged to give up the doctrine of sola Scriptura as the Reformers perceived it because his or her reason influenced by shifting “givens” becomes another authority. Our reason helps us to determine an infallible canon within the Scripture. Ironically, then, Rogers and McKim’s proposal which they package as one of “faith” before “reason” cracks the door open to the radical criticism of the Bible. Their unqualified fideism concerning the role of the Holy Spirit in confirming the authority of Scripture to believers is matched by an apparent unqualified confidence in reason’s rights to superintend biblical studies.

It is obvious that if you judge the Bible by an outside source, and that source is fallible, then in the final analysis, your own mind is the ultimate authority. J.I. Packer says:

He who makes his own judgment his grounds for rejecting anything in the Bible thereby logically makes his own judgment, rather than trust in God’s truthfulness, his ground for accepting everything in the Bible that he does accept.

This is seen quite clearly in Geisler’s quote of Davis: “Davis says, ‘there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible,’ and adds, ‘I have found none on matters of faith and practice.’” The words ‘I have found none’ give him away. It shows that even in the areas of faith and practice, he is on the lookout for errors, showing that ultimately he judges all of Scripture by himself as standard. Such a standard is obviously subjective. It can be concluded then, that if inerrancy is limited, we must apply subjective authority in discovering what is true and what is false, and such authority is inadequate.

The fifth difficulty is what has been termed the “domino theory.” Sproul describes this problem very well.

Frequently this concern is dismissed out of hand as being so much alarmism. But our doctrine of Scripture is not a child’s game of dominoes. We know instances in which men have abandoned belief if full inerrancy but have remained substantially orthodox in the rest of their Theology. We are also aware of the sad instances in which full inerrancy is affirmed yet the substance of theology is corrupt. Inerrancy is no guarantee of Biblical orthodoxy. Yet even a cursory view of church history has shown some patterns of correlation between a weakening of Biblical authority and a serious defection regarding the Wesen of Christianity. The Wesen of nineteenth century liberalism is hardly the gospel evangelicals embrace.

We have already seen, within evangelical circles, a move from limited inerrancy to challenges of matters of faith and practice. When the apostle Paul is depicted as espousing two mutually contradictory views of the role of women in the church, we see a critique of apostolic teaching that does touch directly on the practice of the church.

Geisler points outs:

Davis says, “there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible” and adds, “I have found none on matters of faith and practice.” However he speaks confidently of Paul’s sexism and even of Jesus’ mistaken belief about the time of His second coming.

Surely these are matters of faith and practice. Sproul says:

In the hotly disputed issue of homosexuality we see denominational commissions not only supplementing biblical authority with corroborative evidence drawn from modern sources of medical psychological study but also “correcting” the biblical view by such secular authority.

Obviously the domino theory is not “alarmism.” It is a real danger. That this domino effect exists does not prove anything as regards inerrancy, but it is evidence of the subjective nature of biblical authority with limited inerrancy.

A third method of trying to secure adequate authority for the errancy position is an appeal to church history. Rogers and McKim’s book is an excellent example of this. We will not deal extensively with this attempt, as it is so obviously a weak one, but it does deserve some attention.

In the forward to Rogers and McKim’s book, this statement is made.

To take seriously once more Calvin’s teaching on the Holy Scripture and its roots in Christian history and in the Bible itself means to restore the place of the Holy Spirit, not only as the inspirer of real, living human authors, but as the inspirer too of real, living human interpreters.

In the text of the book, Rogers and McKim say, “Calvin did not wish to substitute theology for philosophy. Each had it’s own appropriate realm -- theology for matters of salvation and the life of faith, and philosophy for matters of worldly wisdom and practice.”

Obviously the writers believe that Calvin did not believe in the full inerrancy of Scripture. Example after example of this could be given. Now of course, it can be argued with a great deal of force that this premise is false, and that the historic position of the Christian church is inerrancy. That is Woodbridge’s position, in his reply to Rogers and McKim. And Berkouwer, himself an errantist, seems to lend credence to the idea that the church did believe in inerrancy when he says,

There can be no doubt that for a long time during church history certainty of faith was specifically linked to the trustworthiness of Holy Scripture as the Word of God. Undoubtedly, Herman Bavinck is referring to this when he writes that there is no doctrine “on which there is more unanimity than on that of Holy Scripture.” From its earliest days the church held that Scripture is not an imperfect, humanly untrustworthy book of various religious experiences, but one with a peculiar mystery, even though the nature of that mystery was often a point of controversy.

But supposing it should be proven that the reformers, and the church fathers did believe the Bible to be errant. That would not make it true, for the church is not infallible. If it were, we would not need Scripture. If orthodoxy is false, let us by all means forsake orthodoxy. The reformers did, when they defied the authority of Rome. So the argument from church history is an extremely weak one.

The fourth attempt at retaining authority while holding to an errant Scripture is the view of neo-orthodoxy. It may be true that evangelicals today do not hold to neo-orthodoxy, but many are proposing a doctrine of Scripture that has varying degrees of similarity to the neo-orthodox position on Scripture, and therefore, it must be examined.

Although Karl Barth is considered the father of neo-orthodoxy, we need to go back to Soren Kierkegaard to find it’s real roots, for neo-orthodoxy is a form of religious existentialism.

Of Kierkegaard’s philosophy Geisler says, “Truth is a subjective encounter with God for which one has no good reason but which one must appropriate by a passionate ‘leap’ of faith. Indeed, Kierkegaard taught that all truth is subjective. He elevated faith as opposed to reason, and taught that there must be no reason for faith, because faith with a factual basis isn’t really faith. He said that the true object of faith was a paradox, not a fact. Truth is a subjective experience.

Nygren says, “Lessing constantly emphasized the search for the truth rather than the results of the search,” and that this was with Kierkegaard’s approval.

We find in Barth the same concept. Barth also finds truth in paradox. For him, there is no certain “yes” or “no”, but rather truth is in the tension between the two; certainty then becomes the greatest enemy of truth, because that tension must be maintained if the search for truth is to go on. In other words, truth is not something that you can know , only an experience you have in the midst of the throes of the dilemma between “yes” and “no.” This philosophy carries into the Bible as well. To Barth, the Bible is “through and through dialectic.”

What then is the neo-orthodox idea of the Bible? To them the Bible is not the Word of God, but it witnesses too the Word of God. It is myth, which illustrates to mens' mind truth, but truth that is not true until he recognizes it as such. It is not propositional truth, but emotional truth.

Barth says:

The Bible is the literary monument of an ancient racial religion and of a Hellenistic cultus religion of the Near East. A human document like any other, it can lay no a priori dogmatic claim to special attention and consideration. This judgment, being announced by every tongue and believed in every territory, we may take for granted today.

To him, it was not God, but Moses who created the law. “Why was it that Moses was able to create a law which for purity and humanity puts us moderns only to shame?”

The Genesis accounts of creation “are not at all an academic account of our beginnings. They are a powerful sermon (almost a song) that celebrate God’s power and glory over all the elements and objects of the universe which Israel’s neighbors falsely worshiped.” He says further, “For the same reason the Biblical idea of the creation is never expended into a cosmogony. It is intended for a solemn marking of the distance between the cosmos and the Creator, and precisely not for a metaphysical explanation of the World.”

For Barth, God is so separate from his creation that there is no positive contact between the two. There is no possibility of a human and divine coming together, so the Bible is purely human. God cannot serve. He must rule. He must himself grasp, seize, manage, use. He can satisfy no other needs than his own. He is not in another world over against this one; he submerges all of this in the other. He is not a thing among other things, but the Wholly Other, the infinite aggregate of all merely relative others.”

God is so far removed that objective, propositional communication to us is impossible. Barth complains that “instead of being the document of the axiomatic, the Bible tends to become to us a document of objective historical information.”

The Bible is faulty in its morals:

Abraham, for instance, as the highest proof of his faith desires to sacrifice his son to God; Jacob wins the birthright by a refined deception of his blind father; Elijah slays the four hundred and fifty priests of Baal by the brook Kishon. Are these exactly praiseworthy examples?

Van Til tells us,

In practice for Brunner ... the Bible cannot teach anything about the “phenomenal world.” According to the critical principle adopted in earlier works and assumed in the present one, the phenomenal world is the world of impersonal forces. And revelation is said to deal with the world of “personal encounter”.

Packer says that “the Bible that is thought of as man’s testament of religious feeling, self-understanding, and ethical inklings is not really the same book as the Bible that is received as God’s testimony to himself,” expressing the neo-orthodox view as contrasted with his own.

So basically the Bible is a human book, faulty, inaccurate, mythological, not proposing propositional truth, a record of religious feelings. What then has become of God’s Word?

It would be false to say that the neo-orthodox do not believe that there are propositions in Scripture; only that the propositions are not true. Indeed with existentialism, a proposition cannot be true, because truth is experience. But the propositions may point to truth.

Propositions are merely pointers; and pointers can be effective whether they are true or false. Brunner states very clearly that a pointer need not be true. Even a false proposition points, because God is free from the limitations of abstract truth and can reveal himself in false statements as easily as in true.

For the neo-orthodox, “The word of God is within the Bible.” 

That is not to say that parts of the Bible are the Word of God, and parts of it are not. Rather all of the Bible, whether true or false, may be the Word of God, if it reveals God to me. If it does not, then it is not the Word of God. The Bible is not true, it becomes true. “With this conscious reservation, that we are saying something that we do not know, that is true only when it becomes true, let the page now be turned, and the Bible’s final suggestion be taken up (as a suggestion!).”

The Bible cannot command -- it is not knowable; it becomes true, but truth cannot be known. Indeed, one could almost say that in reality, the Word of God is not in the Bible, but rather in us, and the Bible stimulates us to find it there. The Word of God is a “Mysterium tremendum that draws the men of the Bible before our eyes out and on to the edge of all experience, thought, and action, to the edge of time and history, and impels them to attempt to leap off into the air, where obviously no man can stand.” Here is the existential leap of faith -- no knowing, only believing.

In fact, the Word of God, and God himself ultimately become one. “We are asked to drop all metaphysics once and for all. When speaking of God’s transcendence we are not to think of some being existing in self-contained form prior to his relation to man. God is identical with his revelation.”

Such is the Word of God to the neo-orthodox. It is vague, mysterious, unknowable, never certain. In the paradox of Scripture, in the midst of its absurdity, one finds God in experience, in the midst of tension. Such an experience cannot really be communicated, and indeed no two will be alike.

So where is biblical authority in all this? Why do we believe? That is the crucial question.

It must surely be obvious that in a system where truth is subjective, and any claim to certainty is regarded as “sin”, that all authority must be subjective.

We find men everywhere who desire to acknowledge as from God only such Scriptures as ‘find them,” -- who cast the clear objective enunciation of God’s will to the mercy of the currents of thought and feeling which sweep up and down in their own souls.

Custer says that “every man’s mind becomes his own authority.”

It is true that the illumination of the Holy Spirit is often appealed to, to deliver from subjectivism.

Let it be said that both positions [Roman Catholic and neo-orthodox] invoke the Holy Spirit, the former as author of both Scripture and tradition, the latter as illuminating mind and conscience to enable each individual to formulate his personal understanding of Christianity.

We will deal more with this later, but let it be said here that this sounds good -- if it would work. But many people who all claim to be illuminated by the Spirit have contradictory views. You may say that the other person is not being led by the Spirit, really, and is therefore wrong. But on what basis are you going to argue that? If only by your own illumination by the Spirit, how do you test your own? How do you know yours is not false, and his is not true? And you cannot argue from Scripture, because it is in error, and illumination is supposed to be what clears it up. You have to decide who’s illumination is true before you know what Scripture is true.

Of course, in neo-orthodoxy it really doesn’t matter; both may be correct, for truth is not certainty, but experience. In any case, authority is subjective and therefore not adequate.

The truth is that the neo-orthodox enterprise of trying to re-establish the authority of biblical teaching on salvation while rejecting biblical teaching on Scripture is inherently inconsistent and self-contradictory; thus, all versions of neo-orthodoxy, like all versions of liberalism before them, exhibit a built-in arbitrariness that it is not possible to eliminate.

Though evangelicals may not follow neo-orthodoxy in its extreme, their borrowing from it results in the same subjectivity. Berkeley Michelsen, writing in Biblical Authority says, “In whatever way man responds to God, man establishes God’s authority.” Surely that is saying essentially the same as Barth did? God has no authority objectively -- it is in the individual personal response that authority is born. Such authority can only be subjective. Rogers and Hubbard also seem very near neo-orthodoxy, with the idea that Scripture is not all the word of God and that the real truth of Scripture is unfalsifiable and is accepted by what amounts to a blind faith.

Perhaps it should be mentioned in passing that many inerrantists who continually find “guidance” in Scripture apart from it’s contextual meaning are practicing neo-orthodoxy. Such guidance is in an unfalsifiable position, being unrelated to the meaning of the text, and essentially amounts to a claim of direct revelation from God. We must be careful not to base our actions and beliefs on such purely subjective grounds as this.

There is no escape of subjectivism on any level of neo-orthodoxy, and thus it provides no adequate authority.

The fifth major area of attempt at securing authority without inerrancy is by substituting a new view of truth. We said at the beginning of this paper that the classic view of truth was a correspondence view, or non-contradiction. Such a view says that truth is what corresponds to reality. And of course, error is what does not correspond to reality. This means that truth is a characteristic of propositions, not of reality. Reality is, truth is a statement that is in line with that reality. Reality is neither true or false. A lie can be real, but it is not true. In this view, a true person is one who is trustworthy -- he always makes true statements.

There is a new view of truth being applied today. It is an intentionalist view of truth. In other words, a statement is true if it accomplishes what the author intended it to accomplish. Now in this case, a statement might be true even if some or all of its content does not correspond with reality. On the other hand, if it does not accomplish its purpose, it is false even if all the information in it is factually correct.

Also, by this view, a person could be regarded as true, if he lives up to someone’s intentions for him. Under this view, the Bible could be true, even if it has factually incorrect statements in it. Minor errors are immaterial, because they do not hinder the salvation message from getting across.

This appears like a very convenient view of truth for the errantist to adopt. Let’s examine it a little more closely, however, and see some of its implications.

In this view a lie is, if not impossible, at least nearly impossible to discover. If a person tells something that is not correct, with the intent to deceive, then he told the truth, if in fact he did deceive. Thus, to be adept at deceiving is virtuous, by this view, and a person who is a great deceiver is the most true. Satan becomes, then, nearly as true as God, for he is the great deceiver.

In this view also, the 9th commandment does not make sense. “Do not bear false witness” would have to mean that everything you say must accomplish its purpose. But surely that is partly relative to your neighbor? If you intend to inform him, and he is a real idiot, you might be a liar no matter how hard you try, and you could not help but break that commandment.

Though there may be a measure of value in the intention view of truth, it is obviously inadequate. Courts of justice are a farce, by this view.

Errantists generally do not take this view to its logical conclusion, but let’s notice how they do make use of it, Berkouwer comments thus:

For if instrumentality is related to this one central witness, then the term “continuity” can legitimately by used in the doctrine of the God-breathed Scripture without falling into dualism. For this is in harmony with the purpose of God-breathed Scripture. One can never have a clear conception of the latter when it is “formally” approached under the category of correctness or conformity with reality; it must be approached in direct relation to the nature and content of Scripture. For the purpose of the God-breathed Scripture is not at all to provide a scientific gnosis, in order to convey and increase human knowledge and wisdom; but to witness of the salvation of God unto faith. This approach does not mean to separate faith and knowledge. But the knowledge that is the unmistakable aim of Scripture is the knowledge of faith, which does not increase human wisdom, but is life eternal (Jn. 17:3).

He claims not to separate faith and knowledge. Yet such is the inevitable result of his view. If Scripture truth is governed by its purpose, then it is intentional, and is clearly a different kind of truth than scientific truth; or else, if scientific truth is also intentional, then it is meaningless. Dualism is not avoided.

He says later on,

It is not that Scripture offers us no information but that the nature of this information is unique. It is governed by the purpose of God’s revelation. The view of inspiration that forms the basis of the misunderstanding of this purpose considers “inerrancy” essential as a parallel characterization of reliability; that is a flight of fancy away from this purpose.

There is one more basic fallacy of this whole view. There are only two options. If Scripture must be interpreted according to its goal, then one must ask the question, “How do I find the goal.” If it is in Scripture, then I must interpret Scripture to find that goal, and at the same time interpret it according to that goal, which means that I must presuppose it. If I find the goal outside of Scripture, on the other hand, then I have an extra biblical authority over Scripture. There is no solution to this dilemma. Either way, my authority has become subjective.

At the same time, this view also destroys the unity of truth, as we have already intimated. Hubbard says, “Error theologically must mean that which leads us astray from the will of God or the knowledge of his truth.”

There is a definite discrepancy here between God’s truth, and other truth. If Jesus Christ is the Truth (John 14:6), and if God is the final absolute upon which all truth rests, the creator and sustainer, then surely all truth is his truth, and no truth is unimportant, or unrelated to any other truth. A scientist who discovers new truth about the universe is doing God’s will, as it was given to Adam. If we divide truth, we have lost our basis for rationality.

Obviously, as well, the intentionalists do not hold their view consistently. For example, Hubbard accused Lindsell of false statements about Fuller. But to do so, he had to revert to a correspondence view of truth. They use intention to interpret Scripture, but correspondence when criticizing.

At other times they use their theory well for their own convenience. Woodbridge says of Rogers and McKim, “The apologetic variety of history which Rogers and McKim write will make some professional historians wince.” Yet surely, manipulation of history is consistent with their view of truth. If it accomplishes its aim of persuading people to their view, it is true, whether it is correct or not, factually.

Another area of subjectivity in this view that should be mentioned is that it makes truth depend upon the receiver. It might be consistently argued, by intentionalism, that the Bible is true for such people as accept it, and false for such as refuse it.

There are two more methods of attempting to retain authority which we want to mention only briefly, and more study needs to be done into these two areas. The first is what I call “spiritualism.” We mentioned it once before in dealing with neo-orthodoxy. It is the view that the Holy Spirit enables us to discern between the truth and error of Scripture.

There is no doubt that illumination is a very important doctrine, and deserves far more attention than it gets. Packer says:

Bible commentaries, Bible classes, Bible lectures and courses, plus the church’s regular expository ministry, can give us fair certainty as to what scripture meant (and we should make full use of them to that end), but only through the Spirit’s illumination shall we be able to see how the teaching applies to us in our own situation.

But is it adequate to insure objective authority in the face of an errant Bible?

Hubbard thinks that it is. He says:

What proof did the prophets need to test whether God was speaking to them? Nothing but the power of that word itself. What proof did the Thessalonicans need that Paul’s gospel was true? Nothing but the conviction of God the Holy Spirit. What proof do we need to know whether the Bible is the Word of God? Nothing but the Spirit of God speaking to us in Scripture.

Actually, Hubbard’s examples are unfortunate, because although the prophets did not demand proof, God told the people not to believe them unless all that they said came to pass (Deut. 18:22), and Paul commended the Bereans, because they did not accept what he had to say without test, but being more noble than the Thessalonicans, they searched the Scripture to test the truth of Paul’s gospel. But Hubbard is not the only one who appeals to the Spirit.

Dr. Cremer was called upon to write the article “Inspiration” in the second edition of Herzog’s “realencyklopedia” (Vol. vi, sub. voc; pp. 745 seq.) which saw the light in 1880. In preparing this article he was led to take an entirely new view of the meaning of Qeopneustos, according to which it defines Scripture, in II Tim. iii. 16, not according to its origin, but according to its effect -- not as “inspired of God,” but as “inspiring its readers.”

Pinnock also seeks his authority in the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

I have come to place greater confidence in the power of the Spirit to make the Bible come alive for believers than I did before ... . Stress on the Spirit is noticeably lacking in the literature of inerrancy. I think it reveals a preoccupation with apologetic certainty....

If one is an errantist, then the only way to maintain authority is to assume that the Spirit enables us to differentiate between error and truth in Scripture. It is not enough to say that he helps us to understand it, for that does not deal with the problem. That the Spirit teaches us to understand it is the inerrantist position. There is no point in understanding error. Indeed, it cannot be understood, really, because error is unreasonable, and what is unreasonable cannot be understood.

The problem is, then, who’s witness of the Spirit is authoritative? Supposing two of us hold contradictory views as to what is error and what is true, both claiming the Spirit’s guidance. Unless you have something to test against, there is no reason for anybody to believe you before me. The authority is therefore subjective, and for that reason inadequate; it is inescapable.

The final attempt is that of direct revelation. This is at present uncommon among evangelicals, though it is the rule among cultists. But it is the next logical step from “spiritualism”; in fact, spiritualism is a disguised form of direct revelation. In spiritualism, the Spirit gives me direct revelation as to the true canon within the Bible. In direct revelation, I am not restricted to the Bible.

Pache says, ”Almost every heresy and sect has originated in a supposed revelation or a new experience on the part of its founder, something outside the strictly biblical framework.”

This is the ultimate result of acceptance of extra biblical and subjective authority. It is inadequate for precisely the same reasons as is spiritualism, so we will not bother to further refute it, but refer the reader back to that section.

 

To conclude our investigation of authority, let us note that without inerrancy, we have no adequate authority;

If it is finally settled that Scripture can err, then the church and its theologians will learn that no source and no standard remains to solve further doctrinal problems that may arise.

When we have no adequate authority, our doctrines have no secure base.

Where this [inerrancy] confession is not made, Scripture will not all be taken with all seriousness, elements of its teaching will inevitably be ignored, and the result, as Lindsell and Schaeffer with others correctly foresee, is bound to be a certain diminution of supernatural Christian faith -- as we have seen in the various versions of liberalism, neo-orthodoxy, and “biblical theology” and as we must now expect to see in new forms in tomorrow’s Roman Catholicism.

 

I am saying that whether it takes five years or fifty years any denomination or para-church group that forsakes inerrancy will end up shipwrecked. It is impossible to prevent the surrender of other important doctrinal teachings of the Word of God when Inerrancy is gone.

It may be argued by some that inerrancy does not provide any more adequate authority then does errancy.  Pinnock argues, with many others, that inerrancy is really not valid, since we all admit errors in our copies. Surely this argument can be seen through, since with the matter of the text we have variations, and we are quite aware what they are. Most of the text is quite certain.

The second argument is more difficult to refute; namely, that Scripture cannot be understood until it is interpreted, and that any interpretation will be subjective, since it will be colored by our background, education, etc. Now it may be true that interpretation has subjective elements in it, but it does not need to be wholly so. If language is valid, then much of Scripture will be obvious without much interpretation. The more precise the language, and the more objective it is, the less interpretation is involved. Also, we have something to test our interpretation against. We believe in the validity of reason. We recognize that man’s reason is fallen and so tainted. But though we may not be able, by reason, to understand infallibly, when the Holy Spirit points out inconsistency to us (error) in our interpretation, we can recognize it if we will. We have an objective base to argue from, whatever material we must deal with subjectively. We have an objective authority, infallible in all it touches, and therefore adequate.Inerrancy and. Authority

 

 

 

 

With all the talk of inerrancy, limited inerrancy, and various other  questions about the Bible today, it may sometimes be forgotten that what is actually at stake is the issue of authority. It is not a question of whether or not we have an authority. Montgomery, in writing about Romanism, says:

Surely some final authority must exist, and it would. appear that it now rests in the New Shape Roman theologian and. his community of like-minded. souls. There is thus more than irony in the definition of infallibility in Dominican Maurice Lelong’s “New Church Lexicon”: “The scandal of Vatican I. Infallibility can only be collective and. popular.” Inerrancy can no longer focus on one book or one man; it is now corporate and. democratic! Does this suggest the profound truth that no one ever dispenses with authority - one only relocates it?

Authority always exists. The question is, is my authority adequate? Where is it located?

I contend that, although any view of scripture allows for some kind of authority, without inerrancy there can be no adequate authority for the questions facing us.

This is not presented as a proof of inerrancy. It simply does not follow that because we need an adequate authority, therefore we must have it. If inerrancy of Scripture is false, my contention is that we do not have an adequate authority, and if we do not have an adequate authority, we will have to live without one - or we can commit suicide, and. if the Bible is errant, we have no authority great enough to tell us we must not do so.

In order to present my arguments clearly, it is important to the reader know where I am coming from. Many writers today do not begin by establishing their presuppositions, perhaps with the hope that the reader will think they don’t have any. But no one ever thinks without presuppositions, and for this reason, every argument is actually circular. The logical positivist, who claims to work inductively from primary information, still has to presuppose the validity of reason, or his senses.

Not only do all arguments carry presuppositions, but presuppositions are very difficult to refute, because before they can be falsified they must be given up. They cannot be proven or dis-proven.

That is not to say, however, that no argument can be persuasive. J. M. Frame brings this out clearly.

A “proof” of, say, the primacy of reason, can be highly persuasive and logically sound even though, at one level, circular. The circularity is rarely blatant; it lurks in the background.. One never says, “reason is true because reason says it is.” One says instead, “Reason is true because one must presuppose it even to deny it.” The second. argument is just as circular as the first. Both presuppose the validity of reason. But in the second argument the presupposition is implicit rather than explicit. And the second one is highly persuasive! The irrationalist cannot help but note that he is (in many cases) presenting his irrationalism in a highly rational way. He is trying to be more rational than the rationalist - a contradictory way to be! He must decide either to be a more consistent irrationalist (but note the paradox of that!) or to abandon his irrationalism. Of course, he might renounce consistency altogether, thus renouncing the presupposition of the argument. But the argument shows him vividly how hard it is to live without rationality. The argument is circular, but it draws some important facts to his attention. The argument is persuasive though circular because down deep in our hearts we know that we cannot live without reason.

 

Again he says:

A Christian Theist, while conceding that the argument for God’s existence is circular, nevertheless will claim that the argument is sound and persuasive, for he devoutly believes that his position is true, and he believes that it can be recognized clearly as such. He believes that God made man to think in terms of this circularity, rather than in terms of some competing circularity.”

While conceding that my arguments will be ultimately circular, and admitting my presuppositions right from the start, as I believe any honest writer ought to do, I still believe that the arguments presented will be reasonable and, hopefully, persuasive.

 

Basic presuppositions of this paper

 

Firstly, in this paper I am presupposing the validity of reason, or more specifically, the principle of non-contradiction. Actually, anyone who ever sits down to write, or even anyone who converses with anyone, has in practice presupposed. the validity of reason, for without reason, all communication is nonsense, and it is foolish to attempt it. It stands to reason that if my propositions can contradict reality, and if I can contradict myself, then in fact I will have communicated nothing to anyone; reason is therefore essential to communication.

Indeed, one cannot even do away with reason unreasonably. To deny reason, one must first assume it, as Frame pointed out above.

Secondly, I am presupposing the validity of language as a means of expressing truth.

There is a contemporary view of language that claims that language is incapable of conveying truth about God. Indeed, some linguists go so far as to say that language cannot be true at all, because of the discrepancy between the word and the object. But there is an immediate problem with this proposition. If we say, “Language cannot convey truth,” then we must ask, is that a true statement? If it is a true statement, then it is false, for it has just done what it said could not be done. And if it is false, on the other hand, then it is eliminated.

So language can convey truth; if it could not people would not talk, because it would be practically meaningless to do so. But what about God-talk? Is that, perhaps meaningless?

David Hume, the skeptical empiricist, was convinced that God-talk is non-sense. Geisler writes concerning his principle,

According to this principle, a statement, to be meaningful, must either be true by definition, (such as “all triangles have three sides”) or else it must be verifiable by one or more of the five senses. The principle, of course, proved to be too narrow (since it eliminated even some scientific statements) and had to be revised. But the conclusion reached by Ayer and other semantical atheists after him is still with us, namely that all God-talk is meaningless.”

 

This is also the basic idea of the logical positivist. But how do we answer it? It is true that much God’-talk cannot be verified, or falsified, by the senses. Is it therefore meaningless?

We must realize that God-talk is a language of presupposition. And as we said before, presupposition resists falsification. Indeed, the presuppositions of the logical positivist (the validity of logic, and the senses) cannot be empirically tested, and. so are non-sense by their own standard!

Obviously, God-talk is valid when viewed in that light. In fact, the idea that language is useless is based on the presupposition that language evolved. We presuppose, rather, that language was given to man by God, and is therefore meaningful. It cannot convey all there is to know about God, but it can express something about God validly and truthfully.

Even though the argument of this paper is not based on inerrancy, there can be no question that it is a presupposition that will color the content of the paper, and so I include it as my third presupposition. Some may feel that this is not truly a presupposition, since it seems to be arguable without circularity, but in reality it is not. Let us follow the argument closely. Warfield gives the basis of the doctrine clearly.

We believe this doctrine of the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures primarily because it is the doctrine which Christ and his apostles believed, and which they have taught to us. It may sometimes seem difficult to take our stand frankly by the side of Christ and his apostles. It will always be found safe.

In the same vein, Montgomery says, “Logically, if the Bible is not inerrant, though Jesus thought it was, He can hardly be the incarnate God He claimed to be and for whom the same claims are made by his apostles.”

I believe that the evidence from Scripture that Christ did believe in inerrancy has been adequately given by other writers, but we may cite, for example, Matt. 5:18, and Luke 14:17, or Matt. 22:43, demonstrating that Christ argued the very words of the Psalm. But one might say, “You are taking your evidence that Christ believed in inerrancy of Scripture from Scripture, and must therefore presuppose it’s inerrancy, since if it is not inerrant, then it may be in error at the points of Christ’s view of Scripture.” I must respond, that is correct. Thus, inerrancy is a presupposition, howbeit, I believe, a valid one.

Finally, a point that is more of a clarification than a presupposition. We must differentiate between a system of hermeneutics, and a statement regarding the nature of Scripture. Some, for example, have argued against inerrancy, saying that the Bible does not speak with scientific accuracy, i.e. that it often rounds numbers, etc. Now, that may be a sound principle of interpretation, or it may not, but it has nothing to say about whether the Bible is inerrant or not. In fact, it more supports inerrancy than otherwise. Inerrancy is a presupposition which hermeneutics must take into account. Parker expresses this very lucidly in his article, Encountering Present-day views of Scripture.

Though the confession of inerrancy does not help us to make the literary judgments that interpretation involves, it commits us in advance to harmonize and integrate all that we find Scripture teaching, without remainder, and so makes possible a theological grasp of Christianity that is altogether believing and altogether obedient.

There are other presuppositions that it might be useful to the reader to know, but I think most would be summed up adequately by saying that I hold a Theistic World View.

As to the scope of this paper, I am not attempting to defend the doctrine of inerrancy, or even of inspiration. I am only seeking to establish my thesis. I shall begin with a short historical analysis of the concept of truth, and show how views of truth have changed through the past centuries. I will then seek to give a method of building a view of truth, and for testing such views. I will show how the modern views of truth are inadequate, and. why the classic view of truth did not satisfy.

All this is to lay the groundwork for a discussion of authority, because authority is ultimately based on truth. I will describe two kinds of authority, showing the adequacy of one, and the inadequacy of the other.

I will then give the major views of Scripture that various errantists have used in an attempt to preserve an adequate authority for Scripture, and I will show why they cannot do so. In conclusion, I will show how inerrancy does provide an adequate authority.

 

I. A short historical analysis of the concept of truth

The classic view of truth is two-fold. First, truth cannot be contradictory (i.e. A cannot at the same time be non-A), and second, it must correspond with reality. This idea of truth assures two things. First, it assures that truth is a unity, for if a truth cannot be contradictory and still be true, then it follows that a truth from the realm of, say, physics cannot contradict a truth from the realm of biology, or one of them is not true. Or, a truth from the realm of history cannot contradict a truth from the realm of theology, or nature, and so on. So if the law of non-contradiction is valid, then there must be a unity to truth, and if the unifying factor can be discovered, all truth can be correlated.

Secondly, it assures that truth will be objective, for it must correspond to reality. That does not, of course, mean that every real proposition is true. A proposition may be a real proposition and yet not be in line with reality (i.e. a lie). Thus, a true proposition about a proposition that does not line up with reality is “that is a lie,” because that lines up with the reality of the falsity of the first proposition.

Neither does this do away with the validity of subjective or relative truth, because both are actually objective assessments of limited or comparative facts. For example, if a person says, “Spinach is good,” that subjective statement may be objectively true as it pertains to that person if in fact he really likes spinach, or thinks that spinach is good even if he does not like it. If so, it is a valid subjective truth, and it is also objectively true as regards that person.

The classical pagan philosophers were unable to correlate all truth, because they lacked. the unifying factor, i.e. the theistic God. The apostles possessed the unifying factor, and were able to build a valid epistemology that could account for both general principles and particular incidents. But with Thomas Aquinas that began to change. He believed that there was some good in the human intellect, that it was not totally depraved.

Bacon followed his lead. Geisler says of him,

After tearing down the “idols” of the old deductive method of discovering truth, Bacon argued that “the best demonstration by far is experience.” The inductive method, he said, is the true way to interpret nature. One can understand how Bacon could consider inductive logic a valid method for scientific inquiry, but he went far beyond reasonable bounds when he claimed universal applicability for his method.

This means that every general principle had to be derived from experience-able details. The fact that he was assuming a general principle a priori (i.e. that reason is capable of interpreting man’s experiences) did not seem to occur to him.

But what would he do with God? For God could not be discovered inductively. Again from Geisler:

For Bacon and even more clearly for Hobbes who followed him, the Bible serves a religious and evocative function -- it leads us to honor and obey God but does not make cognitive truth claims about God nor affirmations about the physical universe.

What Bacon and Hobbes had done, whether or not they realized it, was to deny either non-contradiction or else the truth of theology. Thus they set the groundwork for the destruction of the unity of truth. For Hobbes, religion is absurd, and must be accepted by blind faith. But why accept it if it is not true? And if it is true, you have two kinds of truth that are contradictory! Unity is destroyed, and essentially, non-contradiction is destroyed.

Immanuel Kant also contributed to the loss of unity. He was an agnostic, and taught that we cannot know, only perceive. We can know the “thing-to-me,” (phenomenal) but not the “thing-in-itself” (noumenal). This gulf is impassible by the nature of knowing (i.e. as Bacon taught it). Although he did not deny objective truth, he said we cannot know it. Facts have nothing to do with values, because facts are what we perceive, values are what are real. So perceptions, in his thinking, are objective, realities subjective.

Kierkegaard followed Kant, also making a fact/value dichotomy, but distinguishing between the factual or propositional and. the personal. The two were unrelated. God is beyond proof, the doctrines of God and of inspiration are unfalsifiable, because totally divorced from reason. God then becomes practically subjective. He can only be known by faith, whereas facts are known by reason. So we have the same dichotomy between theological Truth and. natural truth.

It is interesting that Rogers and McKim attribute this same dichotomy to Calvin:

Calvin did not wish to substitute theology for philosophy. Each had. its own appropriate realm -- theology for matters of salvation and the life of faith, and philosophy for matters of worldly wisdom and practice.

It is hard to conceive of Calvin as a modern man!

The third stage is a move to irrationality. Following Bacon’s lead, and moving from specifics to universals, man finally realized that he had to give up the rationality of faith, and theology, but not only that. Everything had to be irrational. Why? Because ideally all facts must be related to a system to be intelligib1e. But man found that facts are so varied that he could not find a system that would cover all of them. He despaired of ever doing so, and concluded that all facts are irrational and unrelated. Rationality is purely a subjective, pragmatic way of looking at things. It must be subjective, because (following Kant) I am the only person that I know exists. I perceive everyone else, and that means they are phenomenal and unknowable. And it must be pragmatic because “If factuality is non-rational, it is expected that rationality will be merely ‘practical’.” It is clear that we cannot live without reason, but if it is unreal, then it must be some make-believe practical system that we adopt to give ourselves security.

Not only does truth become subjective under irrationality, but the way is opened for humanism as well. If my own existence is the only thing I can be sure of, then I must make myself the ultimate reference point for interpreting my perceptions. As Van Til says,

That issue may be stated simply and comprehensively by saying that in the Christian view of things it is the self-contained God who is the final point of reference, while in the case of the modern view it is the would-be self-contained man who is the final point of reference in all interpretation.”

We will see later on what this does to authority.

 

II. An adequate test for systems of truth

If we are ever to arrive at some idea of what truth is, we must have a test by which we evaluate each view of truth.

The first thing we must not do is formulate a test that will, by definition, rule out any view of truth but what we want truth to be. For example, Hume argued against miracles by defining a miracle as something that never happens. If we accept that definition, then of course there are no miracles in reality, because as soon as something happens it is not a miracle, by the definition. Such an argument is not valid. It is a misuse of language.

An adequate view of truth must be able to account for everything; every fact, every observation, every feeling, every illusion. There must be nothing in the universe that is not covered by the system. The only alternative is to give up rationality, and we have shown in the introduction how difficult that is. We should not give it up until we have tried every possibility.

But how can we go about building a system of truth that will cover everything? I would like to suggest that we search for truth in the same way that the legendary Sherlock Holmes sought for criminals.

In the first place, we must not pretend to think without presuppositions. If we think we do, we are deceiving ourselves, and a self-deceived person will never arrive at truth. In fact, our system of truth, ultimately, is our presupposition. So what we really have to test are our presuppositions.

Secondly, we must not limit ourselves to any one way of thinking. Some thinkers have tried to reason from pure deduction, but have not been able to deduce all that is. Others, like Bacon, have tried to reason from induction only, but have not been able to put all their facts into any one system. But is it inconceivable that both methods of thinking could be used together? It ought to be attempted.

Thirdly, one must not rule out, a priori, any system of truth simply because it carries obligations with it, or would demand change of us. That is dishonesty.

How did Holmes operate? He took the facts that he had, and from them induced. several general theories. From these theories he deduced further facts that ought to exist if the theory were correct. Then he would begin to look for those facts. If they did not, in reality, exist, he tried a different theory, and tested it in the same way. At the same time, again inducing, if he discovered a fact that did not fit the theory, he altered or expanded the theory, or else dropped it, and continued on from there.

If we apply this method to modern systems of thought, we are faced with some grave difficulties. Both irrationality and subjectivism are out of line with our minds -- and our minds are part of what is there. Neither one can account for it. We find it impossible to think in a totally irrational manner. Both leave us with subjective truth, and. yet we cannot live with that either, for we are forever trying to persuade other people to think like we do, or at least thinking that they are wrong in the way they think. But if truth is subjective, then nobody is wrong, and. if that were true, we would not think that they are wrong. We are contradicting our presuppositions to suppose so.

Let us postulate a pantheistic world view. Can it account for all that is? Well, it says that all is unity. But is that all there is? Don’t we experience diversity? Ah, yes, but that appearance of diversity is illusion. But surely the illusion is something different from the reality? For if illusion and reality were the same thing, we would never know the difference. Pantheism cannot account for all there is.

Perhaps the universe is all chance. Will that explain all there is? From that premise, we would naturally expect the universe to be random. There is, in that view, no real cause and effect. Why should chance move in an orderly way? We never experience it so. But the world seems to be orderly, not random. And if all is chance, the universe should be impersonal. But that does not account for man, who at least appears to be personal. And if all is chance, why don’t we live that way? Why are we careful what we eat, what we do, etc? For if all is chance, then when I jump off a bridge, I never know if I will fall or not. Chance cannot account for all that is.

Perhaps someone would argue that the classic view of truth as objective and unified has not been able to explain all there is either. We would reply that those who did not find it adequate built it on too narrow a foundation. It can account for all there is, if one admits the possibility of a theistic God.

Working from the general hypothesis of a theistic God, one would expect order in the universe. And in fact, the universe seems to be orderly. One would expect some evidence of personality, and man seems to be personal. A correlation between man and his environment would be expected, and we find such a correlation. We would expect man to have a moral sensibility, and he does. We would. expect a correlation between man’s thoughts, and the place in which he lives, and man does tend to think in terms of correspondence.

We could go on and on. It is granted that an adequate application of this method is beyond the power of the pen, but it is also believed that if anyone will look honestly at the issue, he will see that as there are only a limited number of possibilities, and only one will account for all that is, it must be correct. And if it is, then we have preserved rationality -- unity and objectivity.

 

III. The question of authority

The next question confronting us is, what about authority? What is it? What constitutes an adequate authority?

The dictionary gives several definitions of the word. For example, “A citation (as from a book) used in defense or support of ones actions, opinions, or beliefs,” or “power to require and receive submission: the right to expect obedience.”

Both carry with them the idea of a control of actions and beliefs. Authority is the reason behind what I do and think. Authority is the “ought” of life. Perhaps authority is not necessary, in the ultimate sense of the word, but none the less, “no one ever dispenses with authority, one only relocates it.” Every man attempts always to show reasons why he is right, or why he did what he did, and if he does not, it is because he considers himself the ultimate authority.

J.I. Packer comments that “only truth can have final authority to determine belief and behavior.” The idea is that the “ought” says that I must bring my beliefs and behavior into line with what is true.

But why should I believe what is true? What is wrong with believing something that is false? To many, this question may seem absurd. Of course, it is stupid to deliberately believe a falsehood. But it is a legitimate question none the less. So again I ask, why? Because it is necessary for survival. I will not live long, physically if I refuse to live according to the physical reality of the universe. But even more important, I will not survive spiritually without living in harmony with the spiritual reality of the universe.

Not only does authority involve the demand that we line up with truth, it also involves how we discover truth. Everything we believe we believe on authority. We accept on authority that Julius Caesar was a Roman Emperor. Our authority is history, or more correctly, historians. Our authority for believing something may be another person, or a book, or our own senses, or our own reason. But we always believe by assuming the authority of our source of knowledge. We cannot know without authority.

 

Finally, authority must be as general as the class to which it refers. For example, human beings are all a part of the material universe. Therefore the realities of matter have authority over all mankind. Every man, to survive, must live in line with material reality. No one is exempt from the authority of the reality of gravity. Every unsupported body within the gravitational dominance of the earth falls toward the earth.

So a man needs two things; his authority must be able to tell him what reality is, and also how to live in harmony with the reality.

Authority is based on truth. Therefore since we have two basic concepts of truth, we have also two ideas of authority.

If, as many claim, truth is subjective, then authority is also subjective. The idea of subjective truth is based on the assumption that all that is real is in the subject. The material universe may not be real, nor other people either. All that I know is real is myself. Subjective authority says that the only reality I must line up with is myself, and that I myself can be trusted as the source of truth regarding myself. Now, if in fact reality only involves myself, then subjective authority is adequate. But if reality can apply to things other than myself, such authority is not adequate, because it does not account for all of reality. In fact, truth is not subjective, and this is illustrated by the fact that not even the subjectivists live as though it were. If they do, they don’t live. Even a subjectivist will get out of the way of a Mack truck, if he sees it. Why? Because he recognizes and submits to the objective authority of the laws of motion. Objective authority is adequate, for it accounts for the Mack truck. Subjective authority is not adequate, and the subject knows it.

Some would say that we need objective authority in the material realm, but that subjective authority is adequate in the spiritual realm.

More than a century ago, he [Schleiermacher] taught that the true source of theology was not the Bible but man’s religious consciousness. Thus the objective revelation of God in the Bible was set aside, and man’s subjective opinions were exalted to the position of authority.

Again, the only possible way to hold this is to assume that man is the only spiritual reality in the universe. If there is a God who is real, subjective authority cannot account for him.

It may be argued that objective authority is not adequate either, because it demands that I be in harmony with all of reality, and I cannot know all of reality. By this argument, I should not be surviving. This objection is invalid on two counts. Not all of reality is applicable to me directly and at all times. If there are no elephants where I live, then truths about elephants may not be applicable to me at present. Secondly, it does not take the theistic God into account. If he is the creator, then we can expect him to be in harmony with all of reality. And therefore, if we are in harmony with him, we will be in harmony with all of reality. That does not mean that we approve of all reality. The way to be in harmony with the reality of sin, for example, is to hate it, and expect it to be judged, finally.

In summary, subjective authority is not adequate, because it takes myself only into account. If there is any reality there, besides myself, subjective authority cannot account for it, and any attempt to do so is no more authoritative than anyone elses' attempt.

Objective authority, on the other hand, is adequate if the source is dependable and knowledgeable. Keep in mind that a source may be dependable and knowledgeable in a limited sphere, and so be adequate authority in that limited sphere, but remain an inadequate authority in a broader sphere. For example, our senses are a reliable source of objective authority, in a limited. sphere (the material) and when their frailties are taken into account (i.e. one must be tested against the other, for our senses may be deceiving; and their limits must be recognized). That the senses are a relatively objective authority is seen in the fact that by following them we manage to survive, whereas when they are impaired (i.e. as through alcohol consumption), non-survival increases. But our senses, on the other hand , are not an adequate objective authority for direct spiritual awareness.

 

 

IV. The search for authority in errancy

 

There are perhaps two main reasons why many evangelicals have repudiated the inerrancy of Scripture. The first is because of apparent internal contradictions. They believe that there are things in Scripture that do not harmonize; such as various dates, etc. The second reason is that they believe there are things in Scriptures that contradict the findings of science. Berkouwer tacitly admits this, when he says, “This has gone hand in hand with an increasing revulsion against ‘harmonism’ and ‘concordism’ phenomena which all too often advance a view of Scripture that demands too much of it.”

Stephen Davis says that the Bible should be authoritative for every Christian on all that it says on any subject until he comes across something which he judges that he, for good reasons, cannot accept.

What the errantists may not realize is that they had to shift their authority before they could assert that there are any errors in the Bible. If scripture is our absolute authority, then what contradicts it must be wrong, and contradictions within it must be apparent, and should be possible to harmonize with proper hermeneutics and further light. Only if I, a priori, admit that there are other authorities at least equal to Scripture, can I admit to errors in Scripture. This attitude toward Scripture is not in the least a necessary one. Better scholarship is constantly reducing the internal conflicts in Scripture, and science is a very unstable pillar to build one’s authority upon. It is continually changing its dogmas. For example, Scripture was once scoffed at for talking about the sun rising, (though every scientist, in everyday language, speaks of the sunrise and sunset). But now, with the advent of relativity, scientist say that it really doesn’t matter whether you speak of the sun going around the earth, or the earth around the sun; it all depends on your frame of reference, anyway. We have no way of knowing for sure which way it is. So old concepts of science are shown to be out of date, and if the Bible is allowed to change by every whim of science, it may be false today and true tomorrow.

Errantists have recognized that with their view of inspiration, Biblical authority was placed on a flimsy foundation, and have proposed a variety of theories to maintain the authority of an errant Scripture. But none of them are adequate to do so, as we shall see in the remainder of this paper.

In these systems there is bound to be overlap, as they all have some things in common, and a few things are common to all. This should be kept in mind as we proceed.

The first theory that we will examine is the theory of accommodation, or adaptation.

The basic idea of this theory is that God accommodated himself to humanity in the Scriptures in order to make them comprehensible to man, and in so doing, had to incorporate errors. It is often likened to a little child who’s father talks to him in a truncated language, accommodating himself to the child’s vocabulary and understanding. Pinnock uses this argument, claiming that it is not necessary for the Bible to be inerrant just because it is inspired, because God uses fallible human beings all the time to proclaim his word, and he accomplishes his purpose by it.

There are several assumptions of this view that should be pointed out. First, that the Bible errs because it presents things as they appear, rather than as they are. Second, the idea that if God accommodates himself to human language, he must err, because humans err. Thirdly, the idea that because the Bible emphasizes certain things, it may err in what it dots not emphasize. And finally, because it is written by men, it must err, because men err.

This view is often taken further, to say that God not only accommodated himself to human language, but to the Hebrew thought forms and to the contemporary culture as well.

An integral and practical part of the theory of accommodation is the separation of the “human” and “divine” elements of Scripture. Pinnock says, “Although Protestant orthodoxy confesses both the divine and the human element in the Bible, as it also does in Christology, it has been happier affirming its divine authority than admitting its human characteristics.” He says further, “The prime theological issue which became evident in our survey of options on biblical authority is the need to maintain with equal force both the humanity and the divinity of the word of Scripture.”

The idea of this dichotomy is that the Bible is the writing of men, written with their own peculiar literary style, their own backgrounds, viewpoints, world views, education, and so on as a foundation for that writing. It is contended that they must have erred, since their world view would be as erroneous as their contemporaries’.

 

In fact, there is a legitimate idea of accommodation. God did condescend to speak in human language. There is no other way for him to make himself intelligible to man. But it does not follow that language therefore must err, in that it is human. A father, in accommodating himself to a small child, does not necessarily misinform him, simply because he is speaking a child language. Although he may not be able to give comprehensive truth, in the sense of saying all that could be said, due to the child’s limited understanding, what he says can still be precise. Neither is strict precision always necessary, and when it is not needed lack of it is not a fault. I may, in everyday conversation, speak of the “five mile corner.” That is adequate and true, for in normal usage, nobody would expect me to say “five miles, three feet, four point zero zero one six three inches.” It would not mean anything to anyone anyway. Rounding is an accepted language procedure.

Young demonstrates that within the context of a Biblical view of truth there is room for crudity and roughness of literary style, including improper grammatical structure, variations of parallel accounts of events, discourses, etc. but not room for contradiction or deception. Phenomenological, anthropomorphic, hyperbolic, etc. forms of language do not negate or falsify truth.

Human language may err, but it does not necessarily do so. As to God accommodating himself to Hebrew thought forms, there is, of course, a nucleus of truth here. The Old Testament is written in Hebrew, in Hebrew style, and reflecting Hebrew thought. But although a language does reflect the thought forms of a culture, it is not bound to them. James Barr argues that it is an unsound linguistic procedure to make the supposed thought structure of a language group dictate the possible meanings of the words in that language. Although the language may reflect the thought patterns of a group, it can express truths not dominant in the particular thought pattern. It is true that to interpret correctly, we must be aware of such things, but that is hermeneutics. It does not follow that the Bible errs.

Again, it is argued that Scripture adapts to and reflects human culture, and. so must err. To put it more clearly, the Bible can be discounted where it touches on culture, because it was only reflecting the culture of the day, and that culture is not necessarily right. Of this idea Warfield says:

The fact is that the theory of ‘accommodation’ is presented by Mr. Stuart only to enable him the more easily to refuse to be bound by the apostolic teaching in this matter, and as such it has served him as a stepping stone by which he has attained to an even more drastic principle, on which he practically acts: that wherever the apostle can be shown to agree with their contemporaries, their teaching may be neglected.

It obviously does not follow that agreement with contemporaries indicates error, especially as it may be noticed that on many points the Bible counters current culture.

Perhaps the overall argument here is that the Bible, as a human book, must be subject to error, but that in it’s divine aspect, it is authoritative. This may sound reasonable, but three things need to be realized. First, because it is a human book, it does not necessarily err. Christ was human, and yet did not err. This we must hold to, for “had he been mistaken... the church could well ask whether any single teaching of Jesus on any subject (including the way of salvation) might not also reflect his sincere misunderstanding.” To postulate that Jesus erred is to destroy his authority. Secondly, if the Bible errs because it is human, the Holy Spirit, as supervisor of the work, must still be held responsible for all errors. Let us imagine an executive secretary, who’s boss instructs her to write a letter, giving such and such information, and when it is finished, to bring it to him for his signature. She writes the letter, couching it in her own style, her own vocabulary, and so on. She brings it to the boss, he reads it and signs it. When he puts his signature on it, he is endorsing all it contains. If there are errors in it, he was responsible to catch them and have them corrected before he signed it. He is responsible. In the same sense, the Holy Spirit “signed” the Scriptures. He is responsible for every error. But, though it might have been error through ignorance on the part of the human author, on the part of the Holy Spirit, it is a lie, for he is not ignorant. If the Holy Spirit lies, his authority is destroyed. He cannot be trusted.

Finally, if the Bible is Human and Divine, and the human element admits errors, who or what determines what the errors are, and what is not error? Perhaps it would be advocated that Scripture itself witnesses to the difference. But what principle of Scripture would indicate how to tell its errors from truth? And should we find such a principle, what is to guarantee that the principle itself is not part of the errant matter, and so invalid?

Perhaps we will allow science, in the broadest sense of that term, to determine what is error and what is not. But in that case, science, not the Bible, has become my final authority; and besides, science, or at least scientists, are not infallible. How do I know that they are not in error regarding which parts of Scripture err? Is the authority of fallible scientists adequate for spiritual matters? Will I place my soul’s eternal destiny in their hands? Perhaps you would say that we must use our own judgment as to where science, or the Scripture errs. But now, I am become my own authority. Where do I get my guidelines for discernment? I cannot get them from Scripture; that is what needs discerning. I am left with a subjective authority, and we have already seen that such an authority is totally inadequate,

The concept of accommodation as the errantist present it leaves us without an adequate authority. In the final analysis, it leaves me alone with myself. I cannot know for sure, the validity of anything outside myself.

Before discussing the “limited inerrancy” view, I want to deal briefly with a concept proposed by Berkouwer, that is closely allied with accommodation. It is the idea of “time-boundedness.”

Moreover, the Word finds its way through periods having their own social structures and “cultural patterns” -- customs and concepts relative to the particular period. The Word of God does not remain aloof from this, but is heard in the midst of it. As a result, the time-boundedness of certain admonitions and prohibitions is clear to all. Various statements by Paul regarding womanhood and marriage constitute some of the most discussed illustrations of this particular problem of time-boundness.

The obvious idea is that because the Word is “time-bound” it cannot give objective truth in regards to such things as womanhood. Scripture reflected, not God’s mind, but the mind of the men of the day, in certain things. He gives a further example of this argument.

One should also mention Paul’s ‘argument’ that man was not made from women, but woman from man, and that man is now born of woman (I Cor. 18:8-12). It is evident that one cannot make an inch of progress by speaking of the “correctness” of such words in the abstract.

The implication of what he is saying is clear. Creation is an out-modded, “time-bound” concept (of course God didn’t really make Eve from Adam’s rib. That is only a story, a legend of the Hebrews), and so we don’t believe it. Because Paul’s argument is based on this “time-bound” concept, then it is also time-bound, and we don’t believe it either. But the upshot of it all is, that I can refuse anything in Scripture on that basis, for all of it was written more than one thousand years ago. Who is to determine what has been affected by time, and what has not? Ultimately, I must determine that for myself, according to what seems reasonable to me, and that means that my authority is again subjective. But a subjective authority is not adequate for objective truth.

Berkouwer claims that Paul himself supports the “time-boundedness” idea.

Besides, we note how Paul himself gives an indication of this situation and time-boundedness He emphatically answers questions which have been sent to him (I Cor. 7:1), and he considers something to be right “in view of the impending distress” (I Cor. 7:26).

Actually, this argues against the concept, for the fact that Paul goes out of his way to express the “time-boundedness” of this situation indicates that other situations are not time-bound, else why make a special case of this one?

The second theory that we want to discuss, and perhaps the most popular, is the “limited inerrancy” theory. Benedict Spinoza taught the basic tenant of this view -- that the Bible is authoritative in religious matters only. He carried it further perhaps then modern day evangelicals would, for he said that the Bible has nothing to say to reason; science is for the intellect, religion is for the will. Perhaps he was more consistent than some of his modern counterparts.

Francis Schaeffer explains this view as follows:

The issue is whether the Bible gives propositional truth (that is, truth that may be stated in propositions) where it touches history and the cosmos, and this all the way back to the first eleven chapters of Genesis, or whether instead of that it is only meaningful where it touches that which is considered religious.

 

Harold Lindsell says it this way: “The sum of it is this: Whatever has to do with the gospel in the Bible is inspired and can be trusted; whatever does not have to do with the gospel has errors in it -- it is not inerrant.”

And Geisler quotes Davis: “Davis says, ‘there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible,’ and adds, ‘I have found none on matters of faith and practice.

It is a simple enough theory on the surface, and it looks as if it might do the job of providing an adequate authority without total inerrancy. But if we examine it closely, we find that it has serious problems.

The first serious difficulty is that we must open up the question of canonicity, at least in a practical way. Unless God inspires error, then what is erroneous is not inspired. Even if it is, it cannot stand on the same level as that which is inerrant. Gerstner points out:

We realize that some who disagree with inerrancy are claiming inspiration for parts of the Bible, the so-called salvation parts. Very well, but then they cannot title their position biblical authority but only partial biblical authority. To add insult to injury to God’s Word, they cannot tell precisely what parts of the Bible are inspired. They say “salvation parts,” but they do not tell us where to find these or how to separate them from the uninspired, errant, non-salvation parts.

In his evaluation of Rogers and McKim’s proposals, Woodbridge comments,

The author’s description of the Bible creates for them the same kind of dilemma that neo-orthodox scholars before them faced: how to distinguish the infallible “central saving message” from the errant “difficult surrounding material.” This is a critical problem because Christianity is grounded in the dirt and dust of human history. Salvation truths are planted in the Bible’s historical discourse about things that happened.

Further, R.C. Sproul says,

Evangelical advocates of limited inerrancy are not expected to embrace Bultmann’s mythical view of New Testament super-naturalism. But their method has no inherent safeguard from an arbitrary delimitation of the scope of the biblical canon.

This is a very serious problem, and the answers that are given only raise more problems, as we shall see.

The second major problem is the old problem of unity of truth. The point is that if truth is a unity, then it is all interrelated, and if I believe error in one field of truth, it will affect my beliefs in all areas. Montgomery puts it this ways:

Regardless of how carefully the view point is stated, it necessarily involves a dualism between what is infallibly reliable in the Bible and what is not;... Not only does the Bible itself offer a monistic philosophy, of knowledge, but this viewpoint is necessitated by the very nature of the fields of knowledge themselves. Only the naive specialist really believes that science is qualitatively different from geography, or geography from history, or history from ethics, or ethics from theology.

This point cannot be given up without ultimately giving up rationality. If there is no integral relation between the fields of truth, then truth is not a unity. Jesus made this point, by arguing moral principles on scientific fact.

In short, we cannot separate science and Scripture. When the Bible declares that Jesus was born of a virgin, then it affirms a biological truth as well as a spiritual one. And when Jesus answered the question about divorce by saying, “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the creator ‘made them male and female’” (Matt. 19:4), He not only laid down a moral principle but made a scientific pronouncement as well. The scientific cannot be separated from the spiritual without doing violence to the spiritual.

Montgomery supports this idea when he says,

“Kenotic” (limitation) theories will not solve this dilemma. A meaningful incarnation demands an incarnate God who knows what He is doing -- on earth as it is in heaven -- and tells the truth -- on earth as it is in heaven. This is precisely the Jesus of Gospel accounts: the One who knows that He existed before Abraham, who condemns lying as a mark of the devil, and who so unites reliability in secular” matters with “theological” reliability that He can say to Nicodemus (and to us), “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believed not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things.

This last point of Jesus to Nicodemus would seem to clinch the argument, except that if you believe in errancy, then Jesus may have been in error when he said it.

We must agree with Montgomery when he says further,

The point does not require belaboring~ For practical purposes we may -- perhaps we must -- distinguish between “historical ,“ “geographical,” and “theological” statements in Holy Writ; but these distinctions are no more inherent to reality than the divisions between hand and wrist or trunk and branches. It is thus logically impossible to argue for an alleged perfection resident “spiritually” in Scripture while admitting imperfections in Scriptural knowledge viewed from a “secular” standpoint. Fallibility in the latter necessitates fallibility in the former --and this leaves one incapable of affirming a single doctrinal or moral teaching of the Bible with finality.

Is it any wonder then that those, such as the Roman Catholic exegete Loisy, beginning with “relative inerrancy” (the Bible erroneous only in matters of science and history) and pursuing vigorously the implications of this viewpoint, ultimately conclude “that the principle of relative truth is in fact of universal application”? 

It should be obvious that if we do away with the unity of truth, we are left with a subjective authority; for if truths can contradict, I am left to choose between the contradictory truths. As Sproul says, “How do we escape dehistoricizing the gospel and relegating it to a level of supra-temporal existential ‘decision’?”

It cannot be done, and we are without an adequate authority.

The third serious problem of the limited inerrancy view is that it places the inerrant material in the Bible outside of any test --it cannot be verified or falsified -- and faith becomes blind; a leap in the dark. R.C. Sproul says of this problem,

To those critics outside the fellowship of evangelicals, the notion of “limited inerrancy” appears artificial and contrived. Limited inerrancy gets us off the apologetical hook by making us immune to religious-historical criticism. We can eat our cake and have it too. The gospel is preserved; and our faith and practice remains intact while we admit errors in matters of history and cosmology. We cannot believe the Bible concerning earthly things, but we stake our lives on what it says concerning heavenly things. That approach was totally abrogated by our Lord (John 3:12).

How do we explain and defend the idea that the Bible is divinely superintended in part of its content but not all of it? Which part is inspired? Why only the faith and practice parts? Again, which are the faith and practice parts? Can we not justly be accused of “weaseling” if we adopt such a view? We remove our faith from the arena of historical verification or falsification. This is a fatal blow for apologetics as the reasoned defense of Christianity.

To do this makes experience the only test of truth in the religious realm. And if we do this, what have we left? This move was foreseen by T.H. Huxley, as Schaeffer points out:

T.H. Huxley, the biologist, the friend of Darwin, the grandfather of Aldous and Julian Huxley, wrote in 1890 that he visualized the day not far hence in which faith would be separated from all fact, and especially all pre-Abrahamic history, and that faith would then go on triumphant forever. This is an amazing quote for 1890 before the birth of existential philosophy or existential theology. He indeed foresaw something clearly. I am sure that he and his friends considered this some kind of a joke, because they would have understood well that if faith is separated from fact and specifically pre-Abrahamic space-time history, it is only another form of what we today call a trip.

 

Schaeffer goes on to say:

 

What I quoted in chapter one from T.H. Huxley applies at specifically this place. J.S. Bezzant, an old-fashioned liberal at Cambridge University, in Objections to Christian Belief also puts his finger on the problem of those who separate the portions of Genesis, and the Bible as a whole, that speak of history and the cosmos from those that speak of religious matters. In general, Bezzant speaks against historic Christianity itself, but suddenly he swings around and speaks to neo-orthodoxy. And he says this: “When I am told that it is precisely its immunity from proof which secures the Christian proclamation from the charge of being mythological I reply that immunity from proof can ‘secure’ nothing whatever except immunity from proof, and call nonsense by its name.” The neo-orthodox position is that the Bible makes mistakes in the areas of history and science, but we are to believe it anyway in the religious areas. The result is that religious things simply become “truth” inside one’s head -- just as the drug experience or the Eastern religious experience is “truth” inside of one’s head.

The moment I make truth untestable, it becomes empirical, and it is therefore subjective. If I argue from experience, how can I refute someone elses' experience, which may be different from mine? If Christianity can be said to be true on the basis of experience, then so can Buddhism — for Buddhists also have experience. We have only a subjective authority, and that is not adequate.

It is interesting to note that God gave his people an objective, factual test by which to check the authority of all prophets (Deut. 18:22), and Paul based the truth of Christianity squarely on the historical fact of the resurrection (I Cor. 15:17).

The fourth serious difficulty is closely related to the first. It is simply this. How do I determine what is religious truth and what is not? Lindsell very clearly states the problem.

Once limited inerrancy is accepted, it places the Bible in the same category with every other book that has ever been written. Every book contains in it some things that are true. And what is true is inerrant. Only two things remain to be determined, once this position is acknowledged. The first is what proportion of the book is true and what proportion is false. It may be 90% false and 10% true; or it may be 90% true and 10% false. The second thing that needs to be determined is what parts of the book are true. Since the book contains both truth and falsehood, of necessity, other criteria outside of the book must be brought to bear upon it to determine what is false and what is true. Whatever the source of the other criteria, that becomes the judge of the book in question. Thus the book becomes subordinate to the standard against which it’s truth is determined and measured.

It is clear that the language of Scripture itself cannot tell us which parts are “faith end practice” parts, and which are not. James Barr, himself no friend of inerrancy, makes this plain.

In other words, the sacred tradition of the apostolic church is never purely “religious language,” and still less so is the Old Testament as the sacred tradition of Israel. But the non-religious language of the Bible is of Theological importance just as the religious language is.

If Scripture’s language itself cannot clear up the question, then we must bring an outside source to bear on it. Commenting further on the Rogers McKim proposals, Woodbridge says,

They do say, however, that “ancient principles must be applied using all that we can learn about language and culture from the human and social sciences of the twentieth century” (p. 461). What this means in practicality is that the infallible salvation material can shrink or expand in accordance with the latest givens in higher biblical criticism, cultural anthropology, or findings from other disciplines. As the changing “givens of modernity” set standards for understanding Scripture for Bultmann, so they do for Rogers and McKim. In a word, the believer is obliged to give up the doctrine of sola Scriptura as the Reformers perceived it because his or her reason influenced by shifting “givens” becomes another authority. Our reason helps us to determine an infallible canon within the Scripture. Ironically, then, Rogers and McKim’s proposal which they package as one of “faith” before “reason” cracks the door open to the radical criticism of the Bible. Their unqualified fideism concerning the role of the Holy Spirit in confirming the authority of Scripture to believers is matched by an apparent unqualified confidence in reason’s rights to superintend biblical studies.

It is obvious that if you judge the Bible by an outside source, and that source is fallible, then in the final analysis, your own mind is the ultimate authority. J.I. Packer says:

He who makes his own judgment his grounds for rejecting anything in the Bible thereby logically makes his own judgment, rather than trust in God’s truthfulness, his ground for accepting everything in the Bible that he does accept.

This is seen quite clearly in Geisler’s quote of Davis: “Davis says, ‘there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible,’ and adds, ‘I have found none on matters of faith and practice.’” The words ‘I have found none’ give him away. It shows that even in the areas of faith and practice, he is on the lookout for errors, showing that ultimately he judges all of Scripture by himself as standard. Such a standard is obviously subjective. It can be concluded then, that if inerrancy is limited, we must apply subjective authority in discovering what is true and what is false, and such authority is inadequate.

The fifth difficulty is what has been termed the “domino theory.” Sproul describes this problem very well.

Frequently this concern is dismissed out of hand as being so much alarmism. But our doctrine of Scripture is not a child’s game of dominoes. We know instances in which men have abandoned belief if full inerrancy but have remained substantially orthodox in the rest of their Theology. We are also aware of the sad instances in which full inerrancy is affirmed yet the substance of theology is corrupt. Inerrancy is no guarantee of Biblical orthodoxy. Yet even a cursory view of church history has shown some patterns of correlation between a weakening of Biblical authority and a serious defection regarding the Wesen of Christianity. The Wesen of nineteenth century liberalism is hardly the gospel evangelicals embrace.

We have already seen, within evangelical circles, a move from limited inerrancy to challenges of matters of faith and practice. When the apostle Paul is depicted as espousing two mutually contradictory views of the role of women in the church, we see a critique of apostolic teaching that does touch directly on the practice of the church.

Geisler points outs:

Davis says, “there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible” and adds, “I have found none on matters of faith and practice.” However he speaks confidently of Paul’s sexism and even of Jesus’ mistaken belief about the time of His second coming.

Surely these are matters of faith and practice. Sproul says:

In the hotly disputed issue of homosexuality we see denominational commissions not only supplementing biblical authority with corroborative evidence drawn from modern sources of medical psychological study but also “correcting” the biblical view by such secular authority.

Obviously the domino theory is not “alarmism.” It is a real danger. That this domino effect exists does not prove anything as regards inerrancy, but it is evidence of the subjective nature of biblical authority with limited inerrancy.

A third method of trying to secure adequate authority for the errancy position is an appeal to church history. Rogers and McKim’s book is an excellent example of this. We will not deal extensively with this attempt, as it is so obviously a weak one, but it does deserve some attention.

In the forward to Rogers and McKim’s book, this statement is made.

To take seriously once more Calvin’s teaching on the Holy Scripture and its roots in Christian history and in the Bible itself means to restore the place of the Holy Spirit, not only as the inspirer of real, living human authors, but as the inspirer too of real, living human interpreters.

In the text of the book, Rogers and McKim say, “Calvin did not wish to substitute theology for philosophy. Each had it’s own appropriate realm -- theology for matters of salvation and the life of faith, and philosophy for matters of worldly wisdom and practice.”

Obviously the writers believe that Calvin did not believe in the full inerrancy of Scripture. Example after example of this could be given. Now of course, it can be argued with a great deal of force that this premise is false, and that the historic position of the Christian church is inerrancy. That is Woodbridge’s position, in his reply to Rogers and McKim. And Berkouwer, himself an errantist, seems to lend credence to the idea that the church did believe in inerrancy when he says,

There can be no doubt that for a long time during church history certainty of faith was specifically linked to the trustworthiness of Holy Scripture as the Word of God. Undoubtedly, Herman Bavinck is referring to this when he writes that there is no doctrine “on which there is more unanimity than on that of Holy Scripture.” From its earliest days the church held that Scripture is not an imperfect, humanly untrustworthy book of various religious experiences, but one with a peculiar mystery, even though the nature of that mystery was often a point of controversy.

But supposing it should be proven that the reformers, and the church fathers did believe the Bible to be errant. That would not make it true, for the church is not infallible. If it were, we would not need Scripture. If orthodoxy is false, let us by all means forsake orthodoxy. The reformers did, when they defied the authority of Rome. So the argument from church history is an extremely weak one.

The fourth attempt at retaining authority while holding to an errant Scripture is the view of neo-orthodoxy. It may be true that evangelicals today do not hold to neo-orthodoxy, but many are proposing a doctrine of Scripture that has varying degrees of similarity to the neo-orthodox position on Scripture, and therefore, it must be examined.

Although Karl Barth is considered the father of neo-orthodoxy, we need to go back to Soren Kierkegaard to find it’s real roots, for neo-orthodoxy is a form of religious existentialism.

Of Kierkegaard’s philosophy Geisler says, “Truth is a subjective encounter with God for which one has no good reason but which one must appropriate by a passionate ‘leap’ of faith. Indeed, Kierkegaard taught that all truth is subjective. He elevated faith as opposed to reason, and taught that there must be no reason for faith, because faith with a factual basis isn’t really faith. He said that the true object of faith was a paradox, not a fact. Truth is a subjective experience.

Nygren says, “Lessing constantly emphasized the search for the truth rather than the results of the search,” and that this was with Kierkegaard’s approval.

We find in Barth the same concept. Barth also finds truth in paradox. For him, there is no certain “yes” or “no”, but rather truth is in the tension between the two; certainty then becomes the greatest enemy of truth, because that tension must be maintained if the search for truth is to go on. In other words, truth is not something that you can know , only an experience you have in the midst of the throes of the dilemma between “yes” and “no.” This philosophy carries into the Bible as well. To Barth, the Bible is “through and through dialectic.”

What then is the neo-orthodox idea of the Bible? To them the Bible is not the Word of God, but it witnesses too the Word of God. It is myth, which illustrates to mens' mind truth, but truth that is not true until he recognizes it as such. It is not propositional truth, but emotional truth.

Barth says:

The Bible is the literary monument of an ancient racial religion and of a Hellenistic cultus religion of the Near East. A human document like any other, it can lay no a priori dogmatic claim to special attention and consideration. This judgment, being announced by every tongue and believed in every territory, we may take for granted today.

To him, it was not God, but Moses who created the law. “Why was it that Moses was able to create a law which for purity and humanity puts us moderns only to shame?”

The Genesis accounts of creation “are not at all an academic account of our beginnings. They are a powerful sermon (almost a song) that celebrate God’s power and glory over all the elements and objects of the universe which Israel’s neighbors falsely worshiped.” He says further, “For the same reason the Biblical idea of the creation is never expended into a cosmogony. It is intended for a solemn marking of the distance between the cosmos and the Creator, and precisely not for a metaphysical explanation of the World.”

For Barth, God is so separate from his creation that there is no positive contact between the two. There is no possibility of a human and divine coming together, so the Bible is purely human. God cannot serve. He must rule. He must himself grasp, seize, manage, use. He can satisfy no other needs than his own. He is not in another world over against this one; he submerges all of this in the other. He is not a thing among other things, but the Wholly Other, the infinite aggregate of all merely relative others.”

God is so far removed that objective, propositional communication to us is impossible. Barth complains that “instead of being the document of the axiomatic, the Bible tends to become to us a document of objective historical information.”

The Bible is faulty in its morals:

Abraham, for instance, as the highest proof of his faith desires to sacrifice his son to God; Jacob wins the birthright by a refined deception of his blind father; Elijah slays the four hundred and fifty priests of Baal by the brook Kishon. Are these exactly praiseworthy examples?

Van Til tells us,

In practice for Brunner ... the Bible cannot teach anything about the “phenomenal world.” According to the critical principle adopted in earlier works and assumed in the present one, the phenomenal world is the world of impersonal forces. And revelation is said to deal with the world of “personal encounter”.

Packer says that “the Bible that is thought of as man’s testament of religious feeling, self-understanding, and ethical inklings is not really the same book as the Bible that is received as God’s testimony to himself,” expressing the neo-orthodox view as contrasted with his own.

So basically the Bible is a human book, faulty, inaccurate, mythological, not proposing propositional truth, a record of religious feelings. What then has become of God’s Word?

It would be false to say that the neo-orthodox do not believe that there are propositions in Scripture; only that the propositions are not true. Indeed with existentialism, a proposition cannot be true, because truth is experience. But the propositions may point to truth.

Propositions are merely pointers; and pointers can be effective whether they are true or false. Brunner states very clearly that a pointer need not be true. Even a false proposition points, because God is free from the limitations of abstract truth and can reveal himself in false statements as easily as in true.

For the neo-orthodox, “The word of God is within the Bible.” 

That is not to say that parts of the Bible are the Word of God, and parts of it are not. Rather all of the Bible, whether true or false, may be the Word of God, if it reveals God to me. If it does not, then it is not the Word of God. The Bible is not true, it becomes true. “With this conscious reservation, that we are saying something that we do not know, that is true only when it becomes true, let the page now be turned, and the Bible’s final suggestion be taken up (as a suggestion!).”

The Bible cannot command -- it is not knowable; it becomes true, but truth cannot be known. Indeed, one could almost say that in reality, the Word of God is not in the Bible, but rather in us, and the Bible stimulates us to find it there. The Word of God is a “Mysterium tremendum that draws the men of the Bible before our eyes out and on to the edge of all experience, thought, and action, to the edge of time and history, and impels them to attempt to leap off into the air, where obviously no man can stand.” Here is the existential leap of faith -- no knowing, only believing.

In fact, the Word of God, and God himself ultimately become one. “We are asked to drop all metaphysics once and for all. When speaking of God’s transcendence we are not to think of some being existing in self-contained form prior to his relation to man. God is identical with his revelation.”

Such is the Word of God to the neo-orthodox. It is vague, mysterious, unknowable, never certain. In the paradox of Scripture, in the midst of its absurdity, one finds God in experience, in the midst of tension. Such an experience cannot really be communicated, and indeed no two will be alike.

So where is biblical authority in all this? Why do we believe? That is the crucial question.

It must surely be obvious that in a system where truth is subjective, and any claim to certainty is regarded as “sin”, that all authority must be subjective.

We find men everywhere who desire to acknowledge as from God only such Scriptures as ‘find them,” -- who cast the clear objective enunciation of God’s will to the mercy of the currents of thought and feeling which sweep up and down in their own souls.

Custer says that “every man’s mind becomes his own authority.”

It is true that the illumination of the Holy Spirit is often appealed to, to deliver from subjectivism.

Let it be said that both positions [Roman Catholic and neo-orthodox] invoke the Holy Spirit, the former as author of both Scripture and tradition, the latter as illuminating mind and conscience to enable each individual to formulate his personal understanding of Christianity.

We will deal more with this later, but let it be said here that this sounds good -- if it would work. But many people who all claim to be illuminated by the Spirit have contradictory views. You may say that the other person is not being led by the Spirit, really, and is therefore wrong. But on what basis are you going to argue that? If only by your own illumination by the Spirit, how do you test your own? How do you know yours is not false, and his is not true? And you cannot argue from Scripture, because it is in error, and illumination is supposed to be what clears it up. You have to decide who’s illumination is true before you know what Scripture is true.

Of course, in neo-orthodoxy it really doesn’t matter; both may be correct, for truth is not certainty, but experience. In any case, authority is subjective and therefore not adequate.

The truth is that the neo-orthodox enterprise of trying to re-establish the authority of biblical teaching on salvation while rejecting biblical teaching on Scripture is inherently inconsistent and self-contradictory; thus, all versions of neo-orthodoxy, like all versions of liberalism before them, exhibit a built-in arbitrariness that it is not possible to eliminate.

Though evangelicals may not follow neo-orthodoxy in its extreme, their borrowing from it results in the same subjectivity. Berkeley Michelsen, writing in Biblical Authority says, “In whatever way man responds to God, man establishes God’s authority.” Surely that is saying essentially the same as Barth did? God has no authority objectively -- it is in the individual personal response that authority is born. Such authority can only be subjective. Rogers and Hubbard also seem very near neo-orthodoxy, with the idea that Scripture is not all the word of God and that the real truth of Scripture is unfalsifiable and is accepted by what amounts to a blind faith.

Perhaps it should be mentioned in passing that many inerrantists who continually find “guidance” in Scripture apart from it’s contextual meaning are practicing neo-orthodoxy. Such guidance is in an unfalsifiable position, being unrelated to the meaning of the text, and essentially amounts to a claim of direct revelation from God. We must be careful not to base our actions and beliefs on such purely subjective grounds as this.

There is no escape of subjectivism on any level of neo-orthodoxy, and thus it provides no adequate authority.

The fifth major area of attempt at securing authority without inerrancy is by substituting a new view of truth. We said at the beginning of this paper that the classic view of truth was a correspondence view, or non-contradiction. Such a view says that truth is what corresponds to reality. And of course, error is what does not correspond to reality. This means that truth is a characteristic of propositions, not of reality. Reality is, truth is a statement that is in line with that reality. Reality is neither true or false. A lie can be real, but it is not true. In this view, a true person is one who is trustworthy -- he always makes true statements.

There is a new view of truth being applied today. It is an intentionalist view of truth. In other words, a statement is true if it accomplishes what the author intended it to accomplish. Now in this case, a statement might be true even if some or all of its content does not correspond with reality. On the other hand, if it does not accomplish its purpose, it is false even if all the information in it is factually correct.

Also, by this view, a person could be regarded as true, if he lives up to someone’s intentions for him. Under this view, the Bible could be true, even if it has factually incorrect statements in it. Minor errors are immaterial, because they do not hinder the salvation message from getting across.

This appears like a very convenient view of truth for the errantist to adopt. Let’s examine it a little more closely, however, and see some of its implications.

In this view a lie is, if not impossible, at least nearly impossible to discover. If a person tells something that is not correct, with the intent to deceive, then he told the truth, if in fact he did deceive. Thus, to be adept at deceiving is virtuous, by this view, and a person who is a great deceiver is the most true. Satan becomes, then, nearly as true as God, for he is the great deceiver.

In this view also, the 9th commandment does not make sense. “Do not bear false witness” would have to mean that everything you say must accomplish its purpose. But surely that is partly relative to your neighbor? If you intend to inform him, and he is a real idiot, you might be a liar no matter how hard you try, and you could not help but break that commandment.

Though there may be a measure of value in the intention view of truth, it is obviously inadequate. Courts of justice are a farce, by this view.

Errantists generally do not take this view to its logical conclusion, but let’s notice how they do make use of it, Berkouwer comments thus:

For if instrumentality is related to this one central witness, then the term “continuity” can legitimately by used in the doctrine of the God-breathed Scripture without falling into dualism. For this is in harmony with the purpose of God-breathed Scripture. One can never have a clear conception of the latter when it is “formally” approached under the category of correctness or conformity with reality; it must be approached in direct relation to the nature and content of Scripture. For the purpose of the God-breathed Scripture is not at all to provide a scientific gnosis, in order to convey and increase human knowledge and wisdom; but to witness of the salvation of God unto faith. This approach does not mean to separate faith and knowledge. But the knowledge that is the unmistakable aim of Scripture is the knowledge of faith, which does not increase human wisdom, but is life eternal (Jn. 17:3).

He claims not to separate faith and knowledge. Yet such is the inevitable result of his view. If Scripture truth is governed by its purpose, then it is intentional, and is clearly a different kind of truth than scientific truth; or else, if scientific truth is also intentional, then it is meaningless. Dualism is not avoided.

He says later on,

It is not that Scripture offers us no information but that the nature of this information is unique. It is governed by the purpose of God’s revelation. The view of inspiration that forms the basis of the misunderstanding of this purpose considers “inerrancy” essential as a parallel characterization of reliability; that is a flight of fancy away from this purpose.

There is one more basic fallacy of this whole view. There are only two options. If Scripture must be interpreted according to its goal, then one must ask the question, “How do I find the goal.” If it is in Scripture, then I must interpret Scripture to find that goal, and at the same time interpret it according to that goal, which means that I must presuppose it. If I find the goal outside of Scripture, on the other hand, then I have an extra biblical authority over Scripture. There is no solution to this dilemma. Either way, my authority has become subjective.

At the same time, this view also destroys the unity of truth, as we have already intimated. Hubbard says, “Error theologically must mean that which leads us astray from the will of God or the knowledge of his truth.”

There is a definite discrepancy here between God’s truth, and other truth. If Jesus Christ is the Truth (John 14:6), and if God is the final absolute upon which all truth rests, the creator and sustainer, then surely all truth is his truth, and no truth is unimportant, or unrelated to any other truth. A scientist who discovers new truth about the universe is doing God’s will, as it was given to Adam. If we divide truth, we have lost our basis for rationality.

Obviously, as well, the intentionalists do not hold their view consistently. For example, Hubbard accused Lindsell of false statements about Fuller. But to do so, he had to revert to a correspondence view of truth. They use intention to interpret Scripture, but correspondence when criticizing.

At other times they use their theory well for their own convenience. Woodbridge says of Rogers and McKim, “The apologetic variety of history which Rogers and McKim write will make some professional historians wince.” Yet surely, manipulation of history is consistent with their view of truth. If it accomplishes its aim of persuading people to their view, it is true, whether it is correct or not, factually.

Another area of subjectivity in this view that should be mentioned is that it makes truth depend upon the receiver. It might be consistently argued, by intentionalism, that the Bible is true for such people as accept it, and false for such as refuse it.

There are two more methods of attempting to retain authority which we want to mention only briefly, and more study needs to be done into these two areas. The first is what I call “spiritualism.” We mentioned it once before in dealing with neo-orthodoxy. It is the view that the Holy Spirit enables us to discern between the truth and error of Scripture.

There is no doubt that illumination is a very important doctrine, and deserves far more attention than it gets. Packer says:

Bible commentaries, Bible classes, Bible lectures and courses, plus the church’s regular expository ministry, can give us fair certainty as to what scripture meant (and we should make full use of them to that end), but only through the Spirit’s illumination shall we be able to see how the teaching applies to us in our own situation.

But is it adequate to insure objective authority in the face of an errant Bible?

Hubbard thinks that it is. He says:

What proof did the prophets need to test whether God was speaking to them? Nothing but the power of that word itself. What proof did the Thessalonicans need that Paul’s gospel was true? Nothing but the conviction of God the Holy Spirit. What proof do we need to know whether the Bible is the Word of God? Nothing but the Spirit of God speaking to us in Scripture.

Actually, Hubbard’s examples are unfortunate, because although the prophets did not demand proof, God told the people not to believe them unless all that they said came to pass (Deut. 18:22), and Paul commended the Bereans, because they did not accept what he had to say without test, but being more noble than the Thessalonicans, they searched the Scripture to test the truth of Paul’s gospel. But Hubbard is not the only one who appeals to the Spirit.

Dr. Cremer was called upon to write the article “Inspiration” in the second edition of Herzog’s “realencyklopedia” (Vol. vi, sub. voc; pp. 745 seq.) which saw the light in 1880. In preparing this article he was led to take an entirely new view of the meaning of Qeopneustos, according to which it defines Scripture, in II Tim. iii. 16, not according to its origin, but according to its effect -- not as “inspired of God,” but as “inspiring its readers.”

Pinnock also seeks his authority in the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

I have come to place greater confidence in the power of the Spirit to make the Bible come alive for believers than I did before ... . Stress on the Spirit is noticeably lacking in the literature of inerrancy. I think it reveals a preoccupation with apologetic certainty....

If one is an errantist, then the only way to maintain authority is to assume that the Spirit enables us to differentiate between error and truth in Scripture. It is not enough to say that he helps us to understand it, for that does not deal with the problem. That the Spirit teaches us to understand it is the inerrantist position. There is no point in understanding error. Indeed, it cannot be understood, really, because error is unreasonable, and what is unreasonable cannot be understood.

The problem is, then, who’s witness of the Spirit is authoritative? Supposing two of us hold contradictory views as to what is error and what is true, both claiming the Spirit’s guidance. Unless you have something to test against, there is no reason for anybody to believe you before me. The authority is therefore subjective, and for that reason inadequate; it is inescapable.

The final attempt is that of direct revelation. This is at present uncommon among evangelicals, though it is the rule among cultists. But it is the next logical step from “spiritualism”; in fact, spiritualism is a disguised form of direct revelation. In spiritualism, the Spirit gives me direct revelation as to the true canon within the Bible. In direct revelation, I am not restricted to the Bible.

Pache says, ”Almost every heresy and sect has originated in a supposed revelation or a new experience on the part of its founder, something outside the strictly biblical framework.”

This is the ultimate result of acceptance of extra biblical and subjective authority. It is inadequate for precisely the same reasons as is spiritualism, so we will not bother to further refute it, but refer the reader back to that section.

 

To conclude our investigation of authority, let us note that without inerrancy, we have no adequate authority;

If it is finally settled that Scripture can err, then the church and its theologians will learn that no source and no standard remains to solve further doctrinal problems that may arise.

When we have no adequate authority, our doctrines have no secure base.

Where this [inerrancy] confession is not made, Scripture will not all be taken with all seriousness, elements of its teaching will inevitably be ignored, and the result, as Lindsell and Schaeffer with others correctly foresee, is bound to be a certain diminution of supernatural Christian faith -- as we have seen in the various versions of liberalism, neo-orthodoxy, and “biblical theology” and as we must now expect to see in new forms in tomorrow’s Roman Catholicism.

 

I am saying that whether it takes five years or fifty years any denomination or para-church group that forsakes inerrancy will end up shipwrecked. It is impossible to prevent the surrender of other important doctrinal teachings of the Word of God when Inerrancy is gone.

It may be argued by some that inerrancy does not provide any more adequate authority then does errancy.  Pinnock argues, with many others, that inerrancy is really not valid, since we all admit errors in our copies. Surely this argument can be seen through, since with the matter of the text we have variations, and we are quite aware what they are. Most of the text is quite certain.

The second argument is more difficult to refute; namely, that Scripture cannot be understood until it is interpreted, and that any interpretation will be subjective, since it will be colored by our background, education, etc. Now it may be true that interpretation has subjective elements in it, but it does not need to be wholly so. If language is valid, then much of Scripture will be obvious without much interpretation. The more precise the language, and the more objective it is, the less interpretation is involved. Also, we have something to test our interpretation against. We believe in the validity of reason. We recognize that man’s reason is fallen and so tainted. But though we may not be able, by reason, to understand infallibly, when the Holy Spirit points out inconsistency to us (error) in our interpretation, we can recognize it if we will. We have an objective base to argue from, whatever material we must deal with subjectively. We have an objective authority, infallible in all it touches, and therefore adequate.Inerrancy and. Authority

 

 

 

 

With all the talk of inerrancy, limited inerrancy, and various other  questions about the Bible today, it may sometimes be forgotten that what is actually at stake is the issue of authority. It is not a question of whether or not we have an authority. Montgomery, in writing about Romanism, says:

Surely some final authority must exist, and it would. appear that it now rests in the New Shape Roman theologian and. his community of like-minded. souls. There is thus more than irony in the definition of infallibility in Dominican Maurice Lelong’s “New Church Lexicon”: “The scandal of Vatican I. Infallibility can only be collective and. popular.” Inerrancy can no longer focus on one book or one man; it is now corporate and. democratic! Does this suggest the profound truth that no one ever dispenses with authority - one only relocates it?

Authority always exists. The question is, is my authority adequate? Where is it located?

I contend that, although any view of scripture allows for some kind of authority, without inerrancy there can be no adequate authority for the questions facing us.

This is not presented as a proof of inerrancy. It simply does not follow that because we need an adequate authority, therefore we must have it. If inerrancy of Scripture is false, my contention is that we do not have an adequate authority, and if we do not have an adequate authority, we will have to live without one - or we can commit suicide, and. if the Bible is errant, we have no authority great enough to tell us we must not do so.

In order to present my arguments clearly, it is important to the reader know where I am coming from. Many writers today do not begin by establishing their presuppositions, perhaps with the hope that the reader will think they don’t have any. But no one ever thinks without presuppositions, and for this reason, every argument is actually circular. The logical positivist, who claims to work inductively from primary information, still has to presuppose the validity of reason, or his senses.

Not only do all arguments carry presuppositions, but presuppositions are very difficult to refute, because before they can be falsified they must be given up. They cannot be proven or dis-proven.

That is not to say, however, that no argument can be persuasive. J. M. Frame brings this out clearly.

A “proof” of, say, the primacy of reason, can be highly persuasive and logically sound even though, at one level, circular. The circularity is rarely blatant; it lurks in the background.. One never says, “reason is true because reason says it is.” One says instead, “Reason is true because one must presuppose it even to deny it.” The second. argument is just as circular as the first. Both presuppose the validity of reason. But in the second argument the presupposition is implicit rather than explicit. And the second one is highly persuasive! The irrationalist cannot help but note that he is (in many cases) presenting his irrationalism in a highly rational way. He is trying to be more rational than the rationalist - a contradictory way to be! He must decide either to be a more consistent irrationalist (but note the paradox of that!) or to abandon his irrationalism. Of course, he might renounce consistency altogether, thus renouncing the presupposition of the argument. But the argument shows him vividly how hard it is to live without rationality. The argument is circular, but it draws some important facts to his attention. The argument is persuasive though circular because down deep in our hearts we know that we cannot live without reason.

 

Again he says:

A Christian Theist, while conceding that the argument for God’s existence is circular, nevertheless will claim that the argument is sound and persuasive, for he devoutly believes that his position is true, and he believes that it can be recognized clearly as such. He believes that God made man to think in terms of this circularity, rather than in terms of some competing circularity.”

While conceding that my arguments will be ultimately circular, and admitting my presuppositions right from the start, as I believe any honest writer ought to do, I still believe that the arguments presented will be reasonable and, hopefully, persuasive.

 

Basic presuppositions of this paper

 

Firstly, in this paper I am presupposing the validity of reason, or more specifically, the principle of non-contradiction. Actually, anyone who ever sits down to write, or even anyone who converses with anyone, has in practice presupposed. the validity of reason, for without reason, all communication is nonsense, and it is foolish to attempt it. It stands to reason that if my propositions can contradict reality, and if I can contradict myself, then in fact I will have communicated nothing to anyone; reason is therefore essential to communication.

Indeed, one cannot even do away with reason unreasonably. To deny reason, one must first assume it, as Frame pointed out above.

Secondly, I am presupposing the validity of language as a means of expressing truth.

There is a contemporary view of language that claims that language is incapable of conveying truth about God. Indeed, some linguists go so far as to say that language cannot be true at all, because of the discrepancy between the word and the object. But there is an immediate problem with this proposition. If we say, “Language cannot convey truth,” then we must ask, is that a true statement? If it is a true statement, then it is false, for it has just done what it said could not be done. And if it is false, on the other hand, then it is eliminated.

So language can convey truth; if it could not people would not talk, because it would be practically meaningless to do so. But what about God-talk? Is that, perhaps meaningless?

David Hume, the skeptical empiricist, was convinced that God-talk is non-sense. Geisler writes concerning his principle,

According to this principle, a statement, to be meaningful, must either be true by definition, (such as “all triangles have three sides”) or else it must be verifiable by one or more of the five senses. The principle, of course, proved to be too narrow (since it eliminated even some scientific statements) and had to be revised. But the conclusion reached by Ayer and other semantical atheists after him is still with us, namely that all God-talk is meaningless.”

 

This is also the basic idea of the logical positivist. But how do we answer it? It is true that much God’-talk cannot be verified, or falsified, by the senses. Is it therefore meaningless?

We must realize that God-talk is a language of presupposition. And as we said before, presupposition resists falsification. Indeed, the presuppositions of the logical positivist (the validity of logic, and the senses) cannot be empirically tested, and. so are non-sense by their own standard!

Obviously, God-talk is valid when viewed in that light. In fact, the idea that language is useless is based on the presupposition that language evolved. We presuppose, rather, that language was given to man by God, and is therefore meaningful. It cannot convey all there is to know about God, but it can express something about God validly and truthfully.

Even though the argument of this paper is not based on inerrancy, there can be no question that it is a presupposition that will color the content of the paper, and so I include it as my third presupposition. Some may feel that this is not truly a presupposition, since it seems to be arguable without circularity, but in reality it is not. Let us follow the argument closely. Warfield gives the basis of the doctrine clearly.

We believe this doctrine of the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures primarily because it is the doctrine which Christ and his apostles believed, and which they have taught to us. It may sometimes seem difficult to take our stand frankly by the side of Christ and his apostles. It will always be found safe.

In the same vein, Montgomery says, “Logically, if the Bible is not inerrant, though Jesus thought it was, He can hardly be the incarnate God He claimed to be and for whom the same claims are made by his apostles.”

I believe that the evidence from Scripture that Christ did believe in inerrancy has been adequately given by other writers, but we may cite, for example, Matt. 5:18, and Luke 14:17, or Matt. 22:43, demonstrating that Christ argued the very words of the Psalm. But one might say, “You are taking your evidence that Christ believed in inerrancy of Scripture from Scripture, and must therefore presuppose it’s inerrancy, since if it is not inerrant, then it may be in error at the points of Christ’s view of Scripture.” I must respond, that is correct. Thus, inerrancy is a presupposition, howbeit, I believe, a valid one.

Finally, a point that is more of a clarification than a presupposition. We must differentiate between a system of hermeneutics, and a statement regarding the nature of Scripture. Some, for example, have argued against inerrancy, saying that the Bible does not speak with scientific accuracy, i.e. that it often rounds numbers, etc. Now, that may be a sound principle of interpretation, or it may not, but it has nothing to say about whether the Bible is inerrant or not. In fact, it more supports inerrancy than otherwise. Inerrancy is a presupposition which hermeneutics must take into account. Parker expresses this very lucidly in his article, Encountering Present-day views of Scripture.

Though the confession of inerrancy does not help us to make the literary judgments that interpretation involves, it commits us in advance to harmonize and integrate all that we find Scripture teaching, without remainder, and so makes possible a theological grasp of Christianity that is altogether believing and altogether obedient.

There are other presuppositions that it might be useful to the reader to know, but I think most would be summed up adequately by saying that I hold a Theistic World View.

As to the scope of this paper, I am not attempting to defend the doctrine of inerrancy, or even of inspiration. I am only seeking to establish my thesis. I shall begin with a short historical analysis of the concept of truth, and show how views of truth have changed through the past centuries. I will then seek to give a method of building a view of truth, and for testing such views. I will show how the modern views of truth are inadequate, and. why the classic view of truth did not satisfy.

All this is to lay the groundwork for a discussion of authority, because authority is ultimately based on truth. I will describe two kinds of authority, showing the adequacy of one, and the inadequacy of the other.

I will then give the major views of Scripture that various errantists have used in an attempt to preserve an adequate authority for Scripture, and I will show why they cannot do so. In conclusion, I will show how inerrancy does provide an adequate authority.

 

I. A short historical analysis of the concept of truth

The classic view of truth is two-fold. First, truth cannot be contradictory (i.e. A cannot at the same time be non-A), and second, it must correspond with reality. This idea of truth assures two things. First, it assures that truth is a unity, for if a truth cannot be contradictory and still be true, then it follows that a truth from the realm of, say, physics cannot contradict a truth from the realm of biology, or one of them is not true. Or, a truth from the realm of history cannot contradict a truth from the realm of theology, or nature, and so on. So if the law of non-contradiction is valid, then there must be a unity to truth, and if the unifying factor can be discovered, all truth can be correlated.

Secondly, it assures that truth will be objective, for it must correspond to reality. That does not, of course, mean that every real proposition is true. A proposition may be a real proposition and yet not be in line with reality (i.e. a lie). Thus, a true proposition about a proposition that does not line up with reality is “that is a lie,” because that lines up with the reality of the falsity of the first proposition.

Neither does this do away with the validity of subjective or relative truth, because both are actually objective assessments of limited or comparative facts. For example, if a person says, “Spinach is good,” that subjective statement may be objectively true as it pertains to that person if in fact he really likes spinach, or thinks that spinach is good even if he does not like it. If so, it is a valid subjective truth, and it is also objectively true as regards that person.

The classical pagan philosophers were unable to correlate all truth, because they lacked. the unifying factor, i.e. the theistic God. The apostles possessed the unifying factor, and were able to build a valid epistemology that could account for both general principles and particular incidents. But with Thomas Aquinas that began to change. He believed that there was some good in the human intellect, that it was not totally depraved.

Bacon followed his lead. Geisler says of him,

After tearing down the “idols” of the old deductive method of discovering truth, Bacon argued that “the best demonstration by far is experience.” The inductive method, he said, is the true way to interpret nature. One can understand how Bacon could consider inductive logic a valid method for scientific inquiry, but he went far beyond reasonable bounds when he claimed universal applicability for his method.

This means that every general principle had to be derived from experience-able details. The fact that he was assuming a general principle a priori (i.e. that reason is capable of interpreting man’s experiences) did not seem to occur to him.

But what would he do with God? For God could not be discovered inductively. Again from Geisler:

For Bacon and even more clearly for Hobbes who followed him, the Bible serves a religious and evocative function -- it leads us to honor and obey God but does not make cognitive truth claims about God nor affirmations about the physical universe.

What Bacon and Hobbes had done, whether or not they realized it, was to deny either non-contradiction or else the truth of theology. Thus they set the groundwork for the destruction of the unity of truth. For Hobbes, religion is absurd, and must be accepted by blind faith. But why accept it if it is not true? And if it is true, you have two kinds of truth that are contradictory! Unity is destroyed, and essentially, non-contradiction is destroyed.

Immanuel Kant also contributed to the loss of unity. He was an agnostic, and taught that we cannot know, only perceive. We can know the “thing-to-me,” (phenomenal) but not the “thing-in-itself” (noumenal). This gulf is impassible by the nature of knowing (i.e. as Bacon taught it). Although he did not deny objective truth, he said we cannot know it. Facts have nothing to do with values, because facts are what we perceive, values are what are real. So perceptions, in his thinking, are objective, realities subjective.

Kierkegaard followed Kant, also making a fact/value dichotomy, but distinguishing between the factual or propositional and. the personal. The two were unrelated. God is beyond proof, the doctrines of God and of inspiration are unfalsifiable, because totally divorced from reason. God then becomes practically subjective. He can only be known by faith, whereas facts are known by reason. So we have the same dichotomy between theological Truth and. natural truth.

It is interesting that Rogers and McKim attribute this same dichotomy to Calvin:

Calvin did not wish to substitute theology for philosophy. Each had. its own appropriate realm -- theology for matters of salvation and the life of faith, and philosophy for matters of worldly wisdom and practice.

It is hard to conceive of Calvin as a modern man!

The third stage is a move to irrationality. Following Bacon’s lead, and moving from specifics to universals, man finally realized that he had to give up the rationality of faith, and theology, but not only that. Everything had to be irrational. Why? Because ideally all facts must be related to a system to be intelligib1e. But man found that facts are so varied that he could not find a system that would cover all of them. He despaired of ever doing so, and concluded that all facts are irrational and unrelated. Rationality is purely a subjective, pragmatic way of looking at things. It must be subjective, because (following Kant) I am the only person that I know exists. I perceive everyone else, and that means they are phenomenal and unknowable. And it must be pragmatic because “If factuality is non-rational, it is expected that rationality will be merely ‘practical’.” It is clear that we cannot live without reason, but if it is unreal, then it must be some make-believe practical system that we adopt to give ourselves security.

Not only does truth become subjective under irrationality, but the way is opened for humanism as well. If my own existence is the only thing I can be sure of, then I must make myself the ultimate reference point for interpreting my perceptions. As Van Til says,

That issue may be stated simply and comprehensively by saying that in the Christian view of things it is the self-contained God who is the final point of reference, while in the case of the modern view it is the would-be self-contained man who is the final point of reference in all interpretation.”

We will see later on what this does to authority.

 

II. An adequate test for systems of truth

If we are ever to arrive at some idea of what truth is, we must have a test by which we evaluate each view of truth.

The first thing we must not do is formulate a test that will, by definition, rule out any view of truth but what we want truth to be. For example, Hume argued against miracles by defining a miracle as something that never happens. If we accept that definition, then of course there are no miracles in reality, because as soon as something happens it is not a miracle, by the definition. Such an argument is not valid. It is a misuse of language.

An adequate view of truth must be able to account for everything; every fact, every observation, every feeling, every illusion. There must be nothing in the universe that is not covered by the system. The only alternative is to give up rationality, and we have shown in the introduction how difficult that is. We should not give it up until we have tried every possibility.

But how can we go about building a system of truth that will cover everything? I would like to suggest that we search for truth in the same way that the legendary Sherlock Holmes sought for criminals.

In the first place, we must not pretend to think without presuppositions. If we think we do, we are deceiving ourselves, and a self-deceived person will never arrive at truth. In fact, our system of truth, ultimately, is our presupposition. So what we really have to test are our presuppositions.

Secondly, we must not limit ourselves to any one way of thinking. Some thinkers have tried to reason from pure deduction, but have not been able to deduce all that is. Others, like Bacon, have tried to reason from induction only, but have not been able to put all their facts into any one system. But is it inconceivable that both methods of thinking could be used together? It ought to be attempted.

Thirdly, one must not rule out, a priori, any system of truth simply because it carries obligations with it, or would demand change of us. That is dishonesty.

How did Holmes operate? He took the facts that he had, and from them induced. several general theories. From these theories he deduced further facts that ought to exist if the theory were correct. Then he would begin to look for those facts. If they did not, in reality, exist, he tried a different theory, and tested it in the same way. At the same time, again inducing, if he discovered a fact that did not fit the theory, he altered or expanded the theory, or else dropped it, and continued on from there.

If we apply this method to modern systems of thought, we are faced with some grave difficulties. Both irrationality and subjectivism are out of line with our minds -- and our minds are part of what is there. Neither one can account for it. We find it impossible to think in a totally irrational manner. Both leave us with subjective truth, and. yet we cannot live with that either, for we are forever trying to persuade other people to think like we do, or at least thinking that they are wrong in the way they think. But if truth is subjective, then nobody is wrong, and. if that were true, we would not think that they are wrong. We are contradicting our presuppositions to suppose so.

Let us postulate a pantheistic world view. Can it account for all that is? Well, it says that all is unity. But is that all there is? Don’t we experience diversity? Ah, yes, but that appearance of diversity is illusion. But surely the illusion is something different from the reality? For if illusion and reality were the same thing, we would never know the difference. Pantheism cannot account for all there is.

Perhaps the universe is all chance. Will that explain all there is? From that premise, we would naturally expect the universe to be random. There is, in that view, no real cause and effect. Why should chance move in an orderly way? We never experience it so. But the world seems to be orderly, not random. And if all is chance, the universe should be impersonal. But that does not account for man, who at least appears to be personal. And if all is chance, why don’t we live that way? Why are we careful what we eat, what we do, etc? For if all is chance, then when I jump off a bridge, I never know if I will fall or not. Chance cannot account for all that is.

Perhaps someone would argue that the classic view of truth as objective and unified has not been able to explain all there is either. We would reply that those who did not find it adequate built it on too narrow a foundation. It can account for all there is, if one admits the possibility of a theistic God.

Working from the general hypothesis of a theistic God, one would expect order in the universe. And in fact, the universe seems to be orderly. One would expect some evidence of personality, and man seems to be personal. A correlation between man and his environment would be expected, and we find such a correlation. We would expect man to have a moral sensibility, and he does. We would. expect a correlation between man’s thoughts, and the place in which he lives, and man does tend to think in terms of correspondence.

We could go on and on. It is granted that an adequate application of this method is beyond the power of the pen, but it is also believed that if anyone will look honestly at the issue, he will see that as there are only a limited number of possibilities, and only one will account for all that is, it must be correct. And if it is, then we have preserved rationality -- unity and objectivity.

 

III. The question of authority

The next question confronting us is, what about authority? What is it? What constitutes an adequate authority?

The dictionary gives several definitions of the word. For example, “A citation (as from a book) used in defense or support of ones actions, opinions, or beliefs,” or “power to require and receive submission: the right to expect obedience.”

Both carry with them the idea of a control of actions and beliefs. Authority is the reason behind what I do and think. Authority is the “ought” of life. Perhaps authority is not necessary, in the ultimate sense of the word, but none the less, “no one ever dispenses with authority, one only relocates it.” Every man attempts always to show reasons why he is right, or why he did what he did, and if he does not, it is because he considers himself the ultimate authority.

J.I. Packer comments that “only truth can have final authority to determine belief and behavior.” The idea is that the “ought” says that I must bring my beliefs and behavior into line with what is true.

But why should I believe what is true? What is wrong with believing something that is false? To many, this question may seem absurd. Of course, it is stupid to deliberately believe a falsehood. But it is a legitimate question none the less. So again I ask, why? Because it is necessary for survival. I will not live long, physically if I refuse to live according to the physical reality of the universe. But even more important, I will not survive spiritually without living in harmony with the spiritual reality of the universe.

Not only does authority involve the demand that we line up with truth, it also involves how we discover truth. Everything we believe we believe on authority. We accept on authority that Julius Caesar was a Roman Emperor. Our authority is history, or more correctly, historians. Our authority for believing something may be another person, or a book, or our own senses, or our own reason. But we always believe by assuming the authority of our source of knowledge. We cannot know without authority.

 

Finally, authority must be as general as the class to which it refers. For example, human beings are all a part of the material universe. Therefore the realities of matter have authority over all mankind. Every man, to survive, must live in line with material reality. No one is exempt from the authority of the reality of gravity. Every unsupported body within the gravitational dominance of the earth falls toward the earth.

So a man needs two things; his authority must be able to tell him what reality is, and also how to live in harmony with the reality.

Authority is based on truth. Therefore since we have two basic concepts of truth, we have also two ideas of authority.

If, as many claim, truth is subjective, then authority is also subjective. The idea of subjective truth is based on the assumption that all that is real is in the subject. The material universe may not be real, nor other people either. All that I know is real is myself. Subjective authority says that the only reality I must line up with is myself, and that I myself can be trusted as the source of truth regarding myself. Now, if in fact reality only involves myself, then subjective authority is adequate. But if reality can apply to things other than myself, such authority is not adequate, because it does not account for all of reality. In fact, truth is not subjective, and this is illustrated by the fact that not even the subjectivists live as though it were. If they do, they don’t live. Even a subjectivist will get out of the way of a Mack truck, if he sees it. Why? Because he recognizes and submits to the objective authority of the laws of motion. Objective authority is adequate, for it accounts for the Mack truck. Subjective authority is not adequate, and the subject knows it.

Some would say that we need objective authority in the material realm, but that subjective authority is adequate in the spiritual realm.

More than a century ago, he [Schleiermacher] taught that the true source of theology was not the Bible but man’s religious consciousness. Thus the objective revelation of God in the Bible was set aside, and man’s subjective opinions were exalted to the position of authority.

Again, the only possible way to hold this is to assume that man is the only spiritual reality in the universe. If there is a God who is real, subjective authority cannot account for him.

It may be argued that objective authority is not adequate either, because it demands that I be in harmony with all of reality, and I cannot know all of reality. By this argument, I should not be surviving. This objection is invalid on two counts. Not all of reality is applicable to me directly and at all times. If there are no elephants where I live, then truths about elephants may not be applicable to me at present. Secondly, it does not take the theistic God into account. If he is the creator, then we can expect him to be in harmony with all of reality. And therefore, if we are in harmony with him, we will be in harmony with all of reality. That does not mean that we approve of all reality. The way to be in harmony with the reality of sin, for example, is to hate it, and expect it to be judged, finally.

In summary, subjective authority is not adequate, because it takes myself only into account. If there is any reality there, besides myself, subjective authority cannot account for it, and any attempt to do so is no more authoritative than anyone elses' attempt.

Objective authority, on the other hand, is adequate if the source is dependable and knowledgeable. Keep in mind that a source may be dependable and knowledgeable in a limited sphere, and so be adequate authority in that limited sphere, but remain an inadequate authority in a broader sphere. For example, our senses are a reliable source of objective authority, in a limited. sphere (the material) and when their frailties are taken into account (i.e. one must be tested against the other, for our senses may be deceiving; and their limits must be recognized). That the senses are a relatively objective authority is seen in the fact that by following them we manage to survive, whereas when they are impaired (i.e. as through alcohol consumption), non-survival increases. But our senses, on the other hand , are not an adequate objective authority for direct spiritual awareness.

 

 

IV. The search for authority in errancy

 

There are perhaps two main reasons why many evangelicals have repudiated the inerrancy of Scripture. The first is because of apparent internal contradictions. They believe that there are things in Scripture that do not harmonize; such as various dates, etc. The second reason is that they believe there are things in Scriptures that contradict the findings of science. Berkouwer tacitly admits this, when he says, “This has gone hand in hand with an increasing revulsion against ‘harmonism’ and ‘concordism’ phenomena which all too often advance a view of Scripture that demands too much of it.”

Stephen Davis says that the Bible should be authoritative for every Christian on all that it says on any subject until he comes across something which he judges that he, for good reasons, cannot accept.

What the errantists may not realize is that they had to shift their authority before they could assert that there are any errors in the Bible. If scripture is our absolute authority, then what contradicts it must be wrong, and contradictions within it must be apparent, and should be possible to harmonize with proper hermeneutics and further light. Only if I, a priori, admit that there are other authorities at least equal to Scripture, can I admit to errors in Scripture. This attitude toward Scripture is not in the least a necessary one. Better scholarship is constantly reducing the internal conflicts in Scripture, and science is a very unstable pillar to build one’s authority upon. It is continually changing its dogmas. For example, Scripture was once scoffed at for talking about the sun rising, (though every scientist, in everyday language, speaks of the sunrise and sunset). But now, with the advent of relativity, scientist say that it really doesn’t matter whether you speak of the sun going around the earth, or the earth around the sun; it all depends on your frame of reference, anyway. We have no way of knowing for sure which way it is. So old concepts of science are shown to be out of date, and if the Bible is allowed to change by every whim of science, it may be false today and true tomorrow.

Errantists have recognized that with their view of inspiration, Biblical authority was placed on a flimsy foundation, and have proposed a variety of theories to maintain the authority of an errant Scripture. But none of them are adequate to do so, as we shall see in the remainder of this paper.

In these systems there is bound to be overlap, as they all have some things in common, and a few things are common to all. This should be kept in mind as we proceed.

The first theory that we will examine is the theory of accommodation, or adaptation.

The basic idea of this theory is that God accommodated himself to humanity in the Scriptures in order to make them comprehensible to man, and in so doing, had to incorporate errors. It is often likened to a little child who’s father talks to him in a truncated language, accommodating himself to the child’s vocabulary and understanding. Pinnock uses this argument, claiming that it is not necessary for the Bible to be inerrant just because it is inspired, because God uses fallible human beings all the time to proclaim his word, and he accomplishes his purpose by it.

There are several assumptions of this view that should be pointed out. First, that the Bible errs because it presents things as they appear, rather than as they are. Second, the idea that if God accommodates himself to human language, he must err, because humans err. Thirdly, the idea that because the Bible emphasizes certain things, it may err in what it dots not emphasize. And finally, because it is written by men, it must err, because men err.

This view is often taken further, to say that God not only accommodated himself to human language, but to the Hebrew thought forms and to the contemporary culture as well.

An integral and practical part of the theory of accommodation is the separation of the “human” and “divine” elements of Scripture. Pinnock says, “Although Protestant orthodoxy confesses both the divine and the human element in the Bible, as it also does in Christology, it has been happier affirming its divine authority than admitting its human characteristics.” He says further, “The prime theological issue which became evident in our survey of options on biblical authority is the need to maintain with equal force both the humanity and the divinity of the word of Scripture.”

The idea of this dichotomy is that the Bible is the writing of men, written with their own peculiar literary style, their own backgrounds, viewpoints, world views, education, and so on as a foundation for that writing. It is contended that they must have erred, since their world view would be as erroneous as their contemporaries’.

 

In fact, there is a legitimate idea of accommodation. God did condescend to speak in human language. There is no other way for him to make himself intelligible to man. But it does not follow that language therefore must err, in that it is human. A father, in accommodating himself to a small child, does not necessarily misinform him, simply because he is speaking a child language. Although he may not be able to give comprehensive truth, in the sense of saying all that could be said, due to the child’s limited understanding, what he says can still be precise. Neither is strict precision always necessary, and when it is not needed lack of it is not a fault. I may, in everyday conversation, speak of the “five mile corner.” That is adequate and true, for in normal usage, nobody would expect me to say “five miles, three feet, four point zero zero one six three inches.” It would not mean anything to anyone anyway. Rounding is an accepted language procedure.

Young demonstrates that within the context of a Biblical view of truth there is room for crudity and roughness of literary style, including improper grammatical structure, variations of parallel accounts of events, discourses, etc. but not room for contradiction or deception. Phenomenological, anthropomorphic, hyperbolic, etc. forms of language do not negate or falsify truth.

Human language may err, but it does not necessarily do so. As to God accommodating himself to Hebrew thought forms, there is, of course, a nucleus of truth here. The Old Testament is written in Hebrew, in Hebrew style, and reflecting Hebrew thought. But although a language does reflect the thought forms of a culture, it is not bound to them. James Barr argues that it is an unsound linguistic procedure to make the supposed thought structure of a language group dictate the possible meanings of the words in that language. Although the language may reflect the thought patterns of a group, it can express truths not dominant in the particular thought pattern. It is true that to interpret correctly, we must be aware of such things, but that is hermeneutics. It does not follow that the Bible errs.

Again, it is argued that Scripture adapts to and reflects human culture, and. so must err. To put it more clearly, the Bible can be discounted where it touches on culture, because it was only reflecting the culture of the day, and that culture is not necessarily right. Of this idea Warfield says:

The fact is that the theory of ‘accommodation’ is presented by Mr. Stuart only to enable him the more easily to refuse to be bound by the apostolic teaching in this matter, and as such it has served him as a stepping stone by which he has attained to an even more drastic principle, on which he practically acts: that wherever the apostle can be shown to agree with their contemporaries, their teaching may be neglected.

It obviously does not follow that agreement with contemporaries indicates error, especially as it may be noticed that on many points the Bible counters current culture.

Perhaps the overall argument here is that the Bible, as a human book, must be subject to error, but that in it’s divine aspect, it is authoritative. This may sound reasonable, but three things need to be realized. First, because it is a human book, it does not necessarily err. Christ was human, and yet did not err. This we must hold to, for “had he been mistaken... the church could well ask whether any single teaching of Jesus on any subject (including the way of salvation) might not also reflect his sincere misunderstanding.” To postulate that Jesus erred is to destroy his authority. Secondly, if the Bible errs because it is human, the Holy Spirit, as supervisor of the work, must still be held responsible for all errors. Let us imagine an executive secretary, who’s boss instructs her to write a letter, giving such and such information, and when it is finished, to bring it to him for his signature. She writes the letter, couching it in her own style, her own vocabulary, and so on. She brings it to the boss, he reads it and signs it. When he puts his signature on it, he is endorsing all it contains. If there are errors in it, he was responsible to catch them and have them corrected before he signed it. He is responsible. In the same sense, the Holy Spirit “signed” the Scriptures. He is responsible for every error. But, though it might have been error through ignorance on the part of the human author, on the part of the Holy Spirit, it is a lie, for he is not ignorant. If the Holy Spirit lies, his authority is destroyed. He cannot be trusted.

Finally, if the Bible is Human and Divine, and the human element admits errors, who or what determines what the errors are, and what is not error? Perhaps it would be advocated that Scripture itself witnesses to the difference. But what principle of Scripture would indicate how to tell its errors from truth? And should we find such a principle, what is to guarantee that the principle itself is not part of the errant matter, and so invalid?

Perhaps we will allow science, in the broadest sense of that term, to determine what is error and what is not. But in that case, science, not the Bible, has become my final authority; and besides, science, or at least scientists, are not infallible. How do I know that they are not in error regarding which parts of Scripture err? Is the authority of fallible scientists adequate for spiritual matters? Will I place my soul’s eternal destiny in their hands? Perhaps you would say that we must use our own judgment as to where science, or the Scripture errs. But now, I am become my own authority. Where do I get my guidelines for discernment? I cannot get them from Scripture; that is what needs discerning. I am left with a subjective authority, and we have already seen that such an authority is totally inadequate,

The concept of accommodation as the errantist present it leaves us without an adequate authority. In the final analysis, it leaves me alone with myself. I cannot know for sure, the validity of anything outside myself.

Before discussing the “limited inerrancy” view, I want to deal briefly with a concept proposed by Berkouwer, that is closely allied with accommodation. It is the idea of “time-boundedness.”

Moreover, the Word finds its way through periods having their own social structures and “cultural patterns” -- customs and concepts relative to the particular period. The Word of God does not remain aloof from this, but is heard in the midst of it. As a result, the time-boundedness of certain admonitions and prohibitions is clear to all. Various statements by Paul regarding womanhood and marriage constitute some of the most discussed illustrations of this particular problem of time-boundness.

The obvious idea is that because the Word is “time-bound” it cannot give objective truth in regards to such things as womanhood. Scripture reflected, not God’s mind, but the mind of the men of the day, in certain things. He gives a further example of this argument.

One should also mention Paul’s ‘argument’ that man was not made from women, but woman from man, and that man is now born of woman (I Cor. 18:8-12). It is evident that one cannot make an inch of progress by speaking of the “correctness” of such words in the abstract.

The implication of what he is saying is clear. Creation is an out-modded, “time-bound” concept (of course God didn’t really make Eve from Adam’s rib. That is only a story, a legend of the Hebrews), and so we don’t believe it. Because Paul’s argument is based on this “time-bound” concept, then it is also time-bound, and we don’t believe it either. But the upshot of it all is, that I can refuse anything in Scripture on that basis, for all of it was written more than one thousand years ago. Who is to determine what has been affected by time, and what has not? Ultimately, I must determine that for myself, according to what seems reasonable to me, and that means that my authority is again subjective. But a subjective authority is not adequate for objective truth.

Berkouwer claims that Paul himself supports the “time-boundedness” idea.

Besides, we note how Paul himself gives an indication of this situation and time-boundedness He emphatically answers questions which have been sent to him (I Cor. 7:1), and he considers something to be right “in view of the impending distress” (I Cor. 7:26).

Actually, this argues against the concept, for the fact that Paul goes out of his way to express the “time-boundedness” of this situation indicates that other situations are not time-bound, else why make a special case of this one?

The second theory that we want to discuss, and perhaps the most popular, is the “limited inerrancy” theory. Benedict Spinoza taught the basic tenant of this view -- that the Bible is authoritative in religious matters only. He carried it further perhaps then modern day evangelicals would, for he said that the Bible has nothing to say to reason; science is for the intellect, religion is for the will. Perhaps he was more consistent than some of his modern counterparts.

Francis Schaeffer explains this view as follows:

The issue is whether the Bible gives propositional truth (that is, truth that may be stated in propositions) where it touches history and the cosmos, and this all the way back to the first eleven chapters of Genesis, or whether instead of that it is only meaningful where it touches that which is considered religious.

 

Harold Lindsell says it this way: “The sum of it is this: Whatever has to do with the gospel in the Bible is inspired and can be trusted; whatever does not have to do with the gospel has errors in it -- it is not inerrant.”

And Geisler quotes Davis: “Davis says, ‘there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible,’ and adds, ‘I have found none on matters of faith and practice.

It is a simple enough theory on the surface, and it looks as if it might do the job of providing an adequate authority without total inerrancy. But if we examine it closely, we find that it has serious problems.

The first serious difficulty is that we must open up the question of canonicity, at least in a practical way. Unless God inspires error, then what is erroneous is not inspired. Even if it is, it cannot stand on the same level as that which is inerrant. Gerstner points out:

We realize that some who disagree with inerrancy are claiming inspiration for parts of the Bible, the so-called salvation parts. Very well, but then they cannot title their position biblical authority but only partial biblical authority. To add insult to injury to God’s Word, they cannot tell precisely what parts of the Bible are inspired. They say “salvation parts,” but they do not tell us where to find these or how to separate them from the uninspired, errant, non-salvation parts.

In his evaluation of Rogers and McKim’s proposals, Woodbridge comments,

The author’s description of the Bible creates for them the same kind of dilemma that neo-orthodox scholars before them faced: how to distinguish the infallible “central saving message” from the errant “difficult surrounding material.” This is a critical problem because Christianity is grounded in the dirt and dust of human history. Salvation truths are planted in the Bible’s historical discourse about things that happened.

Further, R.C. Sproul says,

Evangelical advocates of limited inerrancy are not expected to embrace Bultmann’s mythical view of New Testament super-naturalism. But their method has no inherent safeguard from an arbitrary delimitation of the scope of the biblical canon.

This is a very serious problem, and the answers that are given only raise more problems, as we shall see.

The second major problem is the old problem of unity of truth. The point is that if truth is a unity, then it is all interrelated, and if I believe error in one field of truth, it will affect my beliefs in all areas. Montgomery puts it this ways:

Regardless of how carefully the view point is stated, it necessarily involves a dualism between what is infallibly reliable in the Bible and what is not;... Not only does the Bible itself offer a monistic philosophy, of knowledge, but this viewpoint is necessitated by the very nature of the fields of knowledge themselves. Only the naive specialist really believes that science is qualitatively different from geography, or geography from history, or history from ethics, or ethics from theology.

This point cannot be given up without ultimately giving up rationality. If there is no integral relation between the fields of truth, then truth is not a unity. Jesus made this point, by arguing moral principles on scientific fact.

In short, we cannot separate science and Scripture. When the Bible declares that Jesus was born of a virgin, then it affirms a biological truth as well as a spiritual one. And when Jesus answered the question about divorce by saying, “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the creator ‘made them male and female’” (Matt. 19:4), He not only laid down a moral principle but made a scientific pronouncement as well. The scientific cannot be separated from the spiritual without doing violence to the spiritual.

Montgomery supports this idea when he says,

“Kenotic” (limitation) theories will not solve this dilemma. A meaningful incarnation demands an incarnate God who knows what He is doing -- on earth as it is in heaven -- and tells the truth -- on earth as it is in heaven. This is precisely the Jesus of Gospel accounts: the One who knows that He existed before Abraham, who condemns lying as a mark of the devil, and who so unites reliability in secular” matters with “theological” reliability that He can say to Nicodemus (and to us), “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believed not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things.

This last point of Jesus to Nicodemus would seem to clinch the argument, except that if you believe in errancy, then Jesus may have been in error when he said it.

We must agree with Montgomery when he says further,

The point does not require belaboring~ For practical purposes we may -- perhaps we must -- distinguish between “historical ,“ “geographical,” and “theological” statements in Holy Writ; but these distinctions are no more inherent to reality than the divisions between hand and wrist or trunk and branches. It is thus logically impossible to argue for an alleged perfection resident “spiritually” in Scripture while admitting imperfections in Scriptural knowledge viewed from a “secular” standpoint. Fallibility in the latter necessitates fallibility in the former --and this leaves one incapable of affirming a single doctrinal or moral teaching of the Bible with finality.

Is it any wonder then that those, such as the Roman Catholic exegete Loisy, beginning with “relative inerrancy” (the Bible erroneous only in matters of science and history) and pursuing vigorously the implications of this viewpoint, ultimately conclude “that the principle of relative truth is in fact of universal application”? 

It should be obvious that if we do away with the unity of truth, we are left with a subjective authority; for if truths can contradict, I am left to choose between the contradictory truths. As Sproul says, “How do we escape dehistoricizing the gospel and relegating it to a level of supra-temporal existential ‘decision’?”

It cannot be done, and we are without an adequate authority.

The third serious problem of the limited inerrancy view is that it places the inerrant material in the Bible outside of any test --it cannot be verified or falsified -- and faith becomes blind; a leap in the dark. R.C. Sproul says of this problem,

To those critics outside the fellowship of evangelicals, the notion of “limited inerrancy” appears artificial and contrived. Limited inerrancy gets us off the apologetical hook by making us immune to religious-historical criticism. We can eat our cake and have it too. The gospel is preserved; and our faith and practice remains intact while we admit errors in matters of history and cosmology. We cannot believe the Bible concerning earthly things, but we stake our lives on what it says concerning heavenly things. That approach was totally abrogated by our Lord (John 3:12).

How do we explain and defend the idea that the Bible is divinely superintended in part of its content but not all of it? Which part is inspired? Why only the faith and practice parts? Again, which are the faith and practice parts? Can we not justly be accused of “weaseling” if we adopt such a view? We remove our faith from the arena of historical verification or falsification. This is a fatal blow for apologetics as the reasoned defense of Christianity.

To do this makes experience the only test of truth in the religious realm. And if we do this, what have we left? This move was foreseen by T.H. Huxley, as Schaeffer points out:

T.H. Huxley, the biologist, the friend of Darwin, the grandfather of Aldous and Julian Huxley, wrote in 1890 that he visualized the day not far hence in which faith would be separated from all fact, and especially all pre-Abrahamic history, and that faith would then go on triumphant forever. This is an amazing quote for 1890 before the birth of existential philosophy or existential theology. He indeed foresaw something clearly. I am sure that he and his friends considered this some kind of a joke, because they would have understood well that if faith is separated from fact and specifically pre-Abrahamic space-time history, it is only another form of what we today call a trip.

 

Schaeffer goes on to say:

 

What I quoted in chapter one from T.H. Huxley applies at specifically this place. J.S. Bezzant, an old-fashioned liberal at Cambridge University, in Objections to Christian Belief also puts his finger on the problem of those who separate the portions of Genesis, and the Bible as a whole, that speak of history and the cosmos from those that speak of religious matters. In general, Bezzant speaks against historic Christianity itself, but suddenly he swings around and speaks to neo-orthodoxy. And he says this: “When I am told that it is precisely its immunity from proof which secures the Christian proclamation from the charge of being mythological I reply that immunity from proof can ‘secure’ nothing whatever except immunity from proof, and call nonsense by its name.” The neo-orthodox position is that the Bible makes mistakes in the areas of history and science, but we are to believe it anyway in the religious areas. The result is that religious things simply become “truth” inside one’s head -- just as the drug experience or the Eastern religious experience is “truth” inside of one’s head.

The moment I make truth untestable, it becomes empirical, and it is therefore subjective. If I argue from experience, how can I refute someone elses' experience, which may be different from mine? If Christianity can be said to be true on the basis of experience, then so can Buddhism — for Buddhists also have experience. We have only a subjective authority, and that is not adequate.

It is interesting to note that God gave his people an objective, factual test by which to check the authority of all prophets (Deut. 18:22), and Paul based the truth of Christianity squarely on the historical fact of the resurrection (I Cor. 15:17).

The fourth serious difficulty is closely related to the first. It is simply this. How do I determine what is religious truth and what is not? Lindsell very clearly states the problem.

Once limited inerrancy is accepted, it places the Bible in the same category with every other book that has ever been written. Every book contains in it some things that are true. And what is true is inerrant. Only two things remain to be determined, once this position is acknowledged. The first is what proportion of the book is true and what proportion is false. It may be 90% false and 10% true; or it may be 90% true and 10% false. The second thing that needs to be determined is what parts of the book are true. Since the book contains both truth and falsehood, of necessity, other criteria outside of the book must be brought to bear upon it to determine what is false and what is true. Whatever the source of the other criteria, that becomes the judge of the book in question. Thus the book becomes subordinate to the standard against which it’s truth is determined and measured.

It is clear that the language of Scripture itself cannot tell us which parts are “faith end practice” parts, and which are not. James Barr, himself no friend of inerrancy, makes this plain.

In other words, the sacred tradition of the apostolic church is never purely “religious language,” and still less so is the Old Testament as the sacred tradition of Israel. But the non-religious language of the Bible is of Theological importance just as the religious language is.

If Scripture’s language itself cannot clear up the question, then we must bring an outside source to bear on it. Commenting further on the Rogers McKim proposals, Woodbridge says,

They do say, however, that “ancient principles must be applied using all that we can learn about language and culture from the human and social sciences of the twentieth century” (p. 461). What this means in practicality is that the infallible salvation material can shrink or expand in accordance with the latest givens in higher biblical criticism, cultural anthropology, or findings from other disciplines. As the changing “givens of modernity” set standards for understanding Scripture for Bultmann, so they do for Rogers and McKim. In a word, the believer is obliged to give up the doctrine of sola Scriptura as the Reformers perceived it because his or her reason influenced by shifting “givens” becomes another authority. Our reason helps us to determine an infallible canon within the Scripture. Ironically, then, Rogers and McKim’s proposal which they package as one of “faith” before “reason” cracks the door open to the radical criticism of the Bible. Their unqualified fideism concerning the role of the Holy Spirit in confirming the authority of Scripture to believers is matched by an apparent unqualified confidence in reason’s rights to superintend biblical studies.

It is obvious that if you judge the Bible by an outside source, and that source is fallible, then in the final analysis, your own mind is the ultimate authority. J.I. Packer says:

He who makes his own judgment his grounds for rejecting anything in the Bible thereby logically makes his own judgment, rather than trust in God’s truthfulness, his ground for accepting everything in the Bible that he does accept.

This is seen quite clearly in Geisler’s quote of Davis: “Davis says, ‘there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible,’ and adds, ‘I have found none on matters of faith and practice.’” The words ‘I have found none’ give him away. It shows that even in the areas of faith and practice, he is on the lookout for errors, showing that ultimately he judges all of Scripture by himself as standard. Such a standard is obviously subjective. It can be concluded then, that if inerrancy is limited, we must apply subjective authority in discovering what is true and what is false, and such authority is inadequate.

The fifth difficulty is what has been termed the “domino theory.” Sproul describes this problem very well.

Frequently this concern is dismissed out of hand as being so much alarmism. But our doctrine of Scripture is not a child’s game of dominoes. We know instances in which men have abandoned belief if full inerrancy but have remained substantially orthodox in the rest of their Theology. We are also aware of the sad instances in which full inerrancy is affirmed yet the substance of theology is corrupt. Inerrancy is no guarantee of Biblical orthodoxy. Yet even a cursory view of church history has shown some patterns of correlation between a weakening of Biblical authority and a serious defection regarding the Wesen of Christianity. The Wesen of nineteenth century liberalism is hardly the gospel evangelicals embrace.

We have already seen, within evangelical circles, a move from limited inerrancy to challenges of matters of faith and practice. When the apostle Paul is depicted as espousing two mutually contradictory views of the role of women in the church, we see a critique of apostolic teaching that does touch directly on the practice of the church.

Geisler points outs:

Davis says, “there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible” and adds, “I have found none on matters of faith and practice.” However he speaks confidently of Paul’s sexism and even of Jesus’ mistaken belief about the time of His second coming.

Surely these are matters of faith and practice. Sproul says:

In the hotly disputed issue of homosexuality we see denominational commissions not only supplementing biblical authority with corroborative evidence drawn from modern sources of medical psychological study but also “correcting” the biblical view by such secular authority.

Obviously the domino theory is not “alarmism.” It is a real danger. That this domino effect exists does not prove anything as regards inerrancy, but it is evidence of the subjective nature of biblical authority with limited inerrancy.

A third method of trying to secure adequate authority for the errancy position is an appeal to church history. Rogers and McKim’s book is an excellent example of this. We will not deal extensively with this attempt, as it is so obviously a weak one, but it does deserve some attention.

In the forward to Rogers and McKim’s book, this statement is made.

To take seriously once more Calvin’s teaching on the Holy Scripture and its roots in Christian history and in the Bible itself means to restore the place of the Holy Spirit, not only as the inspirer of real, living human authors, but as the inspirer too of real, living human interpreters.

In the text of the book, Rogers and McKim say, “Calvin did not wish to substitute theology for philosophy. Each had it’s own appropriate realm -- theology for matters of salvation and the life of faith, and philosophy for matters of worldly wisdom and practice.”

Obviously the writers believe that Calvin did not believe in the full inerrancy of Scripture. Example after example of this could be given. Now of course, it can be argued with a great deal of force that this premise is false, and that the historic position of the Christian church is inerrancy. That is Woodbridge’s position, in his reply to Rogers and McKim. And Berkouwer, himself an errantist, seems to lend credence to the idea that the church did believe in inerrancy when he says,

There can be no doubt that for a long time during church history certainty of faith was specifically linked to the trustworthiness of Holy Scripture as the Word of God. Undoubtedly, Herman Bavinck is referring to this when he writes that there is no doctrine “on which there is more unanimity than on that of Holy Scripture.” From its earliest days the church held that Scripture is not an imperfect, humanly untrustworthy book of various religious experiences, but one with a peculiar mystery, even though the nature of that mystery was often a point of controversy.

But supposing it should be proven that the reformers, and the church fathers did believe the Bible to be errant. That would not make it true, for the church is not infallible. If it were, we would not need Scripture. If orthodoxy is false, let us by all means forsake orthodoxy. The reformers did, when they defied the authority of Rome. So the argument from church history is an extremely weak one.

The fourth attempt at retaining authority while holding to an errant Scripture is the view of neo-orthodoxy. It may be true that evangelicals today do not hold to neo-orthodoxy, but many are proposing a doctrine of Scripture that has varying degrees of similarity to the neo-orthodox position on Scripture, and therefore, it must be examined.

Although Karl Barth is considered the father of neo-orthodoxy, we need to go back to Soren Kierkegaard to find it’s real roots, for neo-orthodoxy is a form of religious existentialism.

Of Kierkegaard’s philosophy Geisler says, “Truth is a subjective encounter with God for which one has no good reason but which one must appropriate by a passionate ‘leap’ of faith. Indeed, Kierkegaard taught that all truth is subjective. He elevated faith as opposed to reason, and taught that there must be no reason for faith, because faith with a factual basis isn’t really faith. He said that the true object of faith was a paradox, not a fact. Truth is a subjective experience.

Nygren says, “Lessing constantly emphasized the search for the truth rather than the results of the search,” and that this was with Kierkegaard’s approval.

We find in Barth the same concept. Barth also finds truth in paradox. For him, there is no certain “yes” or “no”, but rather truth is in the tension between the two; certainty then becomes the greatest enemy of truth, because that tension must be maintained if the search for truth is to go on. In other words, truth is not something that you can know , only an experience you have in the midst of the throes of the dilemma between “yes” and “no.” This philosophy carries into the Bible as well. To Barth, the Bible is “through and through dialectic.”

What then is the neo-orthodox idea of the Bible? To them the Bible is not the Word of God, but it witnesses too the Word of God. It is myth, which illustrates to mens' mind truth, but truth that is not true until he recognizes it as such. It is not propositional truth, but emotional truth.

Barth says:

The Bible is the literary monument of an ancient racial religion and of a Hellenistic cultus religion of the Near East. A human document like any other, it can lay no a priori dogmatic claim to special attention and consideration. This judgment, being announced by every tongue and believed in every territory, we may take for granted today.

To him, it was not God, but Moses who created the law. “Why was it that Moses was able to create a law which for purity and humanity puts us moderns only to shame?”

The Genesis accounts of creation “are not at all an academic account of our beginnings. They are a powerful sermon (almost a song) that celebrate God’s power and glory over all the elements and objects of the universe which Israel’s neighbors falsely worshiped.” He says further, “For the same reason the Biblical idea of the creation is never expended into a cosmogony. It is intended for a solemn marking of the distance between the cosmos and the Creator, and precisely not for a metaphysical explanation of the World.”

For Barth, God is so separate from his creation that there is no positive contact between the two. There is no possibility of a human and divine coming together, so the Bible is purely human. God cannot serve. He must rule. He must himself grasp, seize, manage, use. He can satisfy no other needs than his own. He is not in another world over against this one; he submerges all of this in the other. He is not a thing among other things, but the Wholly Other, the infinite aggregate of all merely relative others.”

God is so far removed that objective, propositional communication to us is impossible. Barth complains that “instead of being the document of the axiomatic, the Bible tends to become to us a document of objective historical information.”

The Bible is faulty in its morals:

Abraham, for instance, as the highest proof of his faith desires to sacrifice his son to God; Jacob wins the birthright by a refined deception of his blind father; Elijah slays the four hundred and fifty priests of Baal by the brook Kishon. Are these exactly praiseworthy examples?

Van Til tells us,

In practice for Brunner ... the Bible cannot teach anything about the “phenomenal world.” According to the critical principle adopted in earlier works and assumed in the present one, the phenomenal world is the world of impersonal forces. And revelation is said to deal with the world of “personal encounter”.

Packer says that “the Bible that is thought of as man’s testament of religious feeling, self-understanding, and ethical inklings is not really the same book as the Bible that is received as God’s testimony to himself,” expressing the neo-orthodox view as contrasted with his own.

So basically the Bible is a human book, faulty, inaccurate, mythological, not proposing propositional truth, a record of religious feelings. What then has become of God’s Word?

It would be false to say that the neo-orthodox do not believe that there are propositions in Scripture; only that the propositions are not true. Indeed with existentialism, a proposition cannot be true, because truth is experience. But the propositions may point to truth.

Propositions are merely pointers; and pointers can be effective whether they are true or false. Brunner states very clearly that a pointer need not be true. Even a false proposition points, because God is free from the limitations of abstract truth and can reveal himself in false statements as easily as in true.

For the neo-orthodox, “The word of God is within the Bible.” 

That is not to say that parts of the Bible are the Word of God, and parts of it are not. Rather all of the Bible, whether true or false, may be the Word of God, if it reveals God to me. If it does not, then it is not the Word of God. The Bible is not true, it becomes true. “With this conscious reservation, that we are saying something that we do not know, that is true only when it becomes true, let the page now be turned, and the Bible’s final suggestion be taken up (as a suggestion!).”

The Bible cannot command -- it is not knowable; it becomes true, but truth cannot be known. Indeed, one could almost say that in reality, the Word of God is not in the Bible, but rather in us, and the Bible stimulates us to find it there. The Word of God is a “Mysterium tremendum that draws the men of the Bible before our eyes out and on to the edge of all experience, thought, and action, to the edge of time and history, and impels them to attempt to leap off into the air, where obviously no man can stand.” Here is the existential leap of faith -- no knowing, only believing.

In fact, the Word of God, and God himself ultimately become one. “We are asked to drop all metaphysics once and for all. When speaking of God’s transcendence we are not to think of some being existing in self-contained form prior to his relation to man. God is identical with his revelation.”

Such is the Word of God to the neo-orthodox. It is vague, mysterious, unknowable, never certain. In the paradox of Scripture, in the midst of its absurdity, one finds God in experience, in the midst of tension. Such an experience cannot really be communicated, and indeed no two will be alike.

So where is biblical authority in all this? Why do we believe? That is the crucial question.

It must surely be obvious that in a system where truth is subjective, and any claim to certainty is regarded as “sin”, that all authority must be subjective.

We find men everywhere who desire to acknowledge as from God only such Scriptures as ‘find them,” -- who cast the clear objective enunciation of God’s will to the mercy of the currents of thought and feeling which sweep up and down in their own souls.

Custer says that “every man’s mind becomes his own authority.”

It is true that the illumination of the Holy Spirit is often appealed to, to deliver from subjectivism.

Let it be said that both positions [Roman Catholic and neo-orthodox] invoke the Holy Spirit, the former as author of both Scripture and tradition, the latter as illuminating mind and conscience to enable each individual to formulate his personal understanding of Christianity.

We will deal more with this later, but let it be said here that this sounds good -- if it would work. But many people who all claim to be illuminated by the Spirit have contradictory views. You may say that the other person is not being led by the Spirit, really, and is therefore wrong. But on what basis are you going to argue that? If only by your own illumination by the Spirit, how do you test your own? How do you know yours is not false, and his is not true? And you cannot argue from Scripture, because it is in error, and illumination is supposed to be what clears it up. You have to decide who’s illumination is true before you know what Scripture is true.

Of course, in neo-orthodoxy it really doesn’t matter; both may be correct, for truth is not certainty, but experience. In any case, authority is subjective and therefore not adequate.

The truth is that the neo-orthodox enterprise of trying to re-establish the authority of biblical teaching on salvation while rejecting biblical teaching on Scripture is inherently inconsistent and self-contradictory; thus, all versions of neo-orthodoxy, like all versions of liberalism before them, exhibit a built-in arbitrariness that it is not possible to eliminate.

Though evangelicals may not follow neo-orthodoxy in its extreme, their borrowing from it results in the same subjectivity. Berkeley Michelsen, writing in Biblical Authority says, “In whatever way man responds to God, man establishes God’s authority.” Surely that is saying essentially the same as Barth did? God has no authority objectively -- it is in the individual personal response that authority is born. Such authority can only be subjective. Rogers and Hubbard also seem very near neo-orthodoxy, with the idea that Scripture is not all the word of God and that the real truth of Scripture is unfalsifiable and is accepted by what amounts to a blind faith.

Perhaps it should be mentioned in passing that many inerrantists who continually find “guidance” in Scripture apart from it’s contextual meaning are practicing neo-orthodoxy. Such guidance is in an unfalsifiable position, being unrelated to the meaning of the text, and essentially amounts to a claim of direct revelation from God. We must be careful not to base our actions and beliefs on such purely subjective grounds as this.

There is no escape of subjectivism on any level of neo-orthodoxy, and thus it provides no adequate authority.

The fifth major area of attempt at securing authority without inerrancy is by substituting a new view of truth. We said at the beginning of this paper that the classic view of truth was a correspondence view, or non-contradiction. Such a view says that truth is what corresponds to reality. And of course, error is what does not correspond to reality. This means that truth is a characteristic of propositions, not of reality. Reality is, truth is a statement that is in line with that reality. Reality is neither true or false. A lie can be real, but it is not true. In this view, a true person is one who is trustworthy -- he always makes true statements.

There is a new view of truth being applied today. It is an intentionalist view of truth. In other words, a statement is true if it accomplishes what the author intended it to accomplish. Now in this case, a statement might be true even if some or all of its content does not correspond with reality. On the other hand, if it does not accomplish its purpose, it is false even if all the information in it is factually correct.

Also, by this view, a person could be regarded as true, if he lives up to someone’s intentions for him. Under this view, the Bible could be true, even if it has factually incorrect statements in it. Minor errors are immaterial, because they do not hinder the salvation message from getting across.

This appears like a very convenient view of truth for the errantist to adopt. Let’s examine it a little more closely, however, and see some of its implications.

In this view a lie is, if not impossible, at least nearly impossible to discover. If a person tells something that is not correct, with the intent to deceive, then he told the truth, if in fact he did deceive. Thus, to be adept at deceiving is virtuous, by this view, and a person who is a great deceiver is the most true. Satan becomes, then, nearly as true as God, for he is the great deceiver.

In this view also, the 9th commandment does not make sense. “Do not bear false witness” would have to mean that everything you say must accomplish its purpose. But surely that is partly relative to your neighbor? If you intend to inform him, and he is a real idiot, you might be a liar no matter how hard you try, and you could not help but break that commandment.

Though there may be a measure of value in the intention view of truth, it is obviously inadequate. Courts of justice are a farce, by this view.

Errantists generally do not take this view to its logical conclusion, but let’s notice how they do make use of it, Berkouwer comments thus:

For if instrumentality is related to this one central witness, then the term “continuity” can legitimately by used in the doctrine of the God-breathed Scripture without falling into dualism. For this is in harmony with the purpose of God-breathed Scripture. One can never have a clear conception of the latter when it is “formally” approached under the category of correctness or conformity with reality; it must be approached in direct relation to the nature and content of Scripture. For the purpose of the God-breathed Scripture is not at all to provide a scientific gnosis, in order to convey and increase human knowledge and wisdom; but to witness of the salvation of God unto faith. This approach does not mean to separate faith and knowledge. But the knowledge that is the unmistakable aim of Scripture is the knowledge of faith, which does not increase human wisdom, but is life eternal (Jn. 17:3).

He claims not to separate faith and knowledge. Yet such is the inevitable result of his view. If Scripture truth is governed by its purpose, then it is intentional, and is clearly a different kind of truth than scientific truth; or else, if scientific truth is also intentional, then it is meaningless. Dualism is not avoided.

He says later on,

It is not that Scripture offers us no information but that the nature of this information is unique. It is governed by the purpose of God’s revelation. The view of inspiration that forms the basis of the misunderstanding of this purpose considers “inerrancy” essential as a parallel characterization of reliability; that is a flight of fancy away from this purpose.

There is one more basic fallacy of this whole view. There are only two options. If Scripture must be interpreted according to its goal, then one must ask the question, “How do I find the goal.” If it is in Scripture, then I must interpret Scripture to find that goal, and at the same time interpret it according to that goal, which means that I must presuppose it. If I find the goal outside of Scripture, on the other hand, then I have an extra biblical authority over Scripture. There is no solution to this dilemma. Either way, my authority has become subjective.

At the same time, this view also destroys the unity of truth, as we have already intimated. Hubbard says, “Error theologically must mean that which leads us astray from the will of God or the knowledge of his truth.”

There is a definite discrepancy here between God’s truth, and other truth. If Jesus Christ is the Truth (John 14:6), and if God is the final absolute upon which all truth rests, the creator and sustainer, then surely all truth is his truth, and no truth is unimportant, or unrelated to any other truth. A scientist who discovers new truth about the universe is doing God’s will, as it was given to Adam. If we divide truth, we have lost our basis for rationality.

Obviously, as well, the intentionalists do not hold their view consistently. For example, Hubbard accused Lindsell of false statements about Fuller. But to do so, he had to revert to a correspondence view of truth. They use intention to interpret Scripture, but correspondence when criticizing.

At other times they use their theory well for their own convenience. Woodbridge says of Rogers and McKim, “The apologetic variety of history which Rogers and McKim write will make some professional historians wince.” Yet surely, manipulation of history is consistent with their view of truth. If it accomplishes its aim of persuading people to their view, it is true, whether it is correct or not, factually.

Another area of subjectivity in this view that should be mentioned is that it makes truth depend upon the receiver. It might be consistently argued, by intentionalism, that the Bible is true for such people as accept it, and false for such as refuse it.

There are two more methods of attempting to retain authority which we want to mention only briefly, and more study needs to be done into these two areas. The first is what I call “spiritualism.” We mentioned it once before in dealing with neo-orthodoxy. It is the view that the Holy Spirit enables us to discern between the truth and error of Scripture.

There is no doubt that illumination is a very important doctrine, and deserves far more attention than it gets. Packer says:

Bible commentaries, Bible classes, Bible lectures and courses, plus the church’s regular expository ministry, can give us fair certainty as to what scripture meant (and we should make full use of them to that end), but only through the Spirit’s illumination shall we be able to see how the teaching applies to us in our own situation.

But is it adequate to insure objective authority in the face of an errant Bible?

Hubbard thinks that it is. He says:

What proof did the prophets need to test whether God was speaking to them? Nothing but the power of that word itself. What proof did the Thessalonicans need that Paul’s gospel was true? Nothing but the conviction of God the Holy Spirit. What proof do we need to know whether the Bible is the Word of God? Nothing but the Spirit of God speaking to us in Scripture.

Actually, Hubbard’s examples are unfortunate, because although the prophets did not demand proof, God told the people not to believe them unless all that they said came to pass (Deut. 18:22), and Paul commended the Bereans, because they did not accept what he had to say without test, but being more noble than the Thessalonicans, they searched the Scripture to test the truth of Paul’s gospel. But Hubbard is not the only one who appeals to the Spirit.

Dr. Cremer was called upon to write the article “Inspiration” in the second edition of Herzog’s “realencyklopedia” (Vol. vi, sub. voc; pp. 745 seq.) which saw the light in 1880. In preparing this article he was led to take an entirely new view of the meaning of Qeopneustos, according to which it defines Scripture, in II Tim. iii. 16, not according to its origin, but according to its effect -- not as “inspired of God,” but as “inspiring its readers.”

Pinnock also seeks his authority in the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

I have come to place greater confidence in the power of the Spirit to make the Bible come alive for believers than I did before ... . Stress on the Spirit is noticeably lacking in the literature of inerrancy. I think it reveals a preoccupation with apologetic certainty....

If one is an errantist, then the only way to maintain authority is to assume that the Spirit enables us to differentiate between error and truth in Scripture. It is not enough to say that he helps us to understand it, for that does not deal with the problem. That the Spirit teaches us to understand it is the inerrantist position. There is no point in understanding error. Indeed, it cannot be understood, really, because error is unreasonable, and what is unreasonable cannot be understood.

The problem is, then, who’s witness of the Spirit is authoritative? Supposing two of us hold contradictory views as to what is error and what is true, both claiming the Spirit’s guidance. Unless you have something to test against, there is no reason for anybody to believe you before me. The authority is therefore subjective, and for that reason inadequate; it is inescapable.

The final attempt is that of direct revelation. This is at present uncommon among evangelicals, though it is the rule among cultists. But it is the next logical step from “spiritualism”; in fact, spiritualism is a disguised form of direct revelation. In spiritualism, the Spirit gives me direct revelation as to the true canon within the Bible. In direct revelation, I am not restricted to the Bible.

Pache says, ”Almost every heresy and sect has originated in a supposed revelation or a new experience on the part of its founder, something outside the strictly biblical framework.”

This is the ultimate result of acceptance of extra biblical and subjective authority. It is inadequate for precisely the same reasons as is spiritualism, so we will not bother to further refute it, but refer the reader back to that section.

 

To conclude our investigation of authority, let us note that without inerrancy, we have no adequate authority;

If it is finally settled that Scripture can err, then the church and its theologians will learn that no source and no standard remains to solve further doctrinal problems that may arise.

When we have no adequate authority, our doctrines have no secure base.

Where this [inerrancy] confession is not made, Scripture will not all be taken with all seriousness, elements of its teaching will inevitably be ignored, and the result, as Lindsell and Schaeffer with others correctly foresee, is bound to be a certain diminution of supernatural Christian faith -- as we have seen in the various versions of liberalism, neo-orthodoxy, and “biblical theology” and as we must now expect to see in new forms in tomorrow’s Roman Catholicism.

 

I am saying that whether it takes five years or fifty years any denomination or para-church group that forsakes inerrancy will end up shipwrecked. It is impossible to prevent the surrender of other important doctrinal teachings of the Word of God when Inerrancy is gone.

It may be argued by some that inerrancy does not provide any more adequate authority then does errancy.  Pinnock argues, with many others, that inerrancy is really not valid, since we all admit errors in our copies. Surely this argument can be seen through, since with the matter of the text we have variations, and we are quite aware what they are. Most of the text is quite certain.

The second argument is more difficult to refute; namely, that Scripture cannot be understood until it is interpreted, and that any interpretation will be subjective, since it will be colored by our background, education, etc. Now it may be true that interpretation has subjective elements in it, but it does not need to be wholly so. If language is valid, then much of Scripture will be obvious without much interpretation. The more precise the language, and the more objective it is, the less interpretation is involved. Also, we have something to test our interpretation against. We believe in the validity of reason. We recognize that man’s reason is fallen and so tainted. But though we may not be able, by reason, to understand infallibly, when the Holy Spirit points out inconsistency to us (error) in our interpretation, we can recognize it if we will. We have an objective base to argue from, whatever material we must deal with subjectively. We have an objective authority, infallible in all it touches, and therefore adequate.Inerrancy and. Authority

 

 

 

 

With all the talk of inerrancy, limited inerrancy, and various other  questions about the Bible today, it may sometimes be forgotten that what is actually at stake is the issue of authority. It is not a question of whether or not we have an authority. Montgomery, in writing about Romanism, says:

Surely some final authority must exist, and it would. appear that it now rests in the New Shape Roman theologian and. his community of like-minded. souls. There is thus more than irony in the definition of infallibility in Dominican Maurice Lelong’s “New Church Lexicon”: “The scandal of Vatican I. Infallibility can only be collective and. popular.” Inerrancy can no longer focus on one book or one man; it is now corporate and. democratic! Does this suggest the profound truth that no one ever dispenses with authority - one only relocates it?

Authority always exists. The question is, is my authority adequate? Where is it located?

I contend that, although any view of scripture allows for some kind of authority, without inerrancy there can be no adequate authority for the questions facing us.

This is not presented as a proof of inerrancy. It simply does not follow that because we need an adequate authority, therefore we must have it. If inerrancy of Scripture is false, my contention is that we do not have an adequate authority, and if we do not have an adequate authority, we will have to live without one - or we can commit suicide, and. if the Bible is errant, we have no authority great enough to tell us we must not do so.

In order to present my arguments clearly, it is important to the reader know where I am coming from. Many writers today do not begin by establishing their presuppositions, perhaps with the hope that the reader will think they don’t have any. But no one ever thinks without presuppositions, and for this reason, every argument is actually circular. The logical positivist, who claims to work inductively from primary information, still has to presuppose the validity of reason, or his senses.

Not only do all arguments carry presuppositions, but presuppositions are very difficult to refute, because before they can be falsified they must be given up. They cannot be proven or dis-proven.

That is not to say, however, that no argument can be persuasive. J. M. Frame brings this out clearly.

A “proof” of, say, the primacy of reason, can be highly persuasive and logically sound even though, at one level, circular. The circularity is rarely blatant; it lurks in the background.. One never says, “reason is true because reason says it is.” One says instead, “Reason is true because one must presuppose it even to deny it.” The second. argument is just as circular as the first. Both presuppose the validity of reason. But in the second argument the presupposition is implicit rather than explicit. And the second one is highly persuasive! The irrationalist cannot help but note that he is (in many cases) presenting his irrationalism in a highly rational way. He is trying to be more rational than the rationalist - a contradictory way to be! He must decide either to be a more consistent irrationalist (but note the paradox of that!) or to abandon his irrationalism. Of course, he might renounce consistency altogether, thus renouncing the presupposition of the argument. But the argument shows him vividly how hard it is to live without rationality. The argument is circular, but it draws some important facts to his attention. The argument is persuasive though circular because down deep in our hearts we know that we cannot live without reason.

 

Again he says:

A Christian Theist, while conceding that the argument for God’s existence is circular, nevertheless will claim that the argument is sound and persuasive, for he devoutly believes that his position is true, and he believes that it can be recognized clearly as such. He believes that God made man to think in terms of this circularity, rather than in terms of some competing circularity.”

While conceding that my arguments will be ultimately circular, and admitting my presuppositions right from the start, as I believe any honest writer ought to do, I still believe that the arguments presented will be reasonable and, hopefully, persuasive.

 

Basic presuppositions of this paper

 

Firstly, in this paper I am presupposing the validity of reason, or more specifically, the principle of non-contradiction. Actually, anyone who ever sits down to write, or even anyone who converses with anyone, has in practice presupposed. the validity of reason, for without reason, all communication is nonsense, and it is foolish to attempt it. It stands to reason that if my propositions can contradict reality, and if I can contradict myself, then in fact I will have communicated nothing to anyone; reason is therefore essential to communication.

Indeed, one cannot even do away with reason unreasonably. To deny reason, one must first assume it, as Frame pointed out above.

Secondly, I am presupposing the validity of language as a means of expressing truth.

There is a contemporary view of language that claims that language is incapable of conveying truth about God. Indeed, some linguists go so far as to say that language cannot be true at all, because of the discrepancy between the word and the object. But there is an immediate problem with this proposition. If we say, “Language cannot convey truth,” then we must ask, is that a true statement? If it is a true statement, then it is false, for it has just done what it said could not be done. And if it is false, on the other hand, then it is eliminated.

So language can convey truth; if it could not people would not talk, because it would be practically meaningless to do so. But what about God-talk? Is that, perhaps meaningless?

David Hume, the skeptical empiricist, was convinced that God-talk is non-sense. Geisler writes concerning his principle,

According to this principle, a statement, to be meaningful, must either be true by definition, (such as “all triangles have three sides”) or else it must be verifiable by one or more of the five senses. The principle, of course, proved to be too narrow (since it eliminated even some scientific statements) and had to be revised. But the conclusion reached by Ayer and other semantical atheists after him is still with us, namely that all God-talk is meaningless.”

 

This is also the basic idea of the logical positivist. But how do we answer it? It is true that much God’-talk cannot be verified, or falsified, by the senses. Is it therefore meaningless?

We must realize that God-talk is a language of presupposition. And as we said before, presupposition resists falsification. Indeed, the presuppositions of the logical positivist (the validity of logic, and the senses) cannot be empirically tested, and. so are non-sense by their own standard!

Obviously, God-talk is valid when viewed in that light. In fact, the idea that language is useless is based on the presupposition that language evolved. We presuppose, rather, that language was given to man by God, and is therefore meaningful. It cannot convey all there is to know about God, but it can express something about God validly and truthfully.

Even though the argument of this paper is not based on inerrancy, there can be no question that it is a presupposition that will color the content of the paper, and so I include it as my third presupposition. Some may feel that this is not truly a presupposition, since it seems to be arguable without circularity, but in reality it is not. Let us follow the argument closely. Warfield gives the basis of the doctrine clearly.

We believe this doctrine of the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures primarily because it is the doctrine which Christ and his apostles believed, and which they have taught to us. It may sometimes seem difficult to take our stand frankly by the side of Christ and his apostles. It will always be found safe.

In the same vein, Montgomery says, “Logically, if the Bible is not inerrant, though Jesus thought it was, He can hardly be the incarnate God He claimed to be and for whom the same claims are made by his apostles.”

I believe that the evidence from Scripture that Christ did believe in inerrancy has been adequately given by other writers, but we may cite, for example, Matt. 5:18, and Luke 14:17, or Matt. 22:43, demonstrating that Christ argued the very words of the Psalm. But one might say, “You are taking your evidence that Christ believed in inerrancy of Scripture from Scripture, and must therefore presuppose it’s inerrancy, since if it is not inerrant, then it may be in error at the points of Christ’s view of Scripture.” I must respond, that is correct. Thus, inerrancy is a presupposition, howbeit, I believe, a valid one.

Finally, a point that is more of a clarification than a presupposition. We must differentiate between a system of hermeneutics, and a statement regarding the nature of Scripture. Some, for example, have argued against inerrancy, saying that the Bible does not speak with scientific accuracy, i.e. that it often rounds numbers, etc. Now, that may be a sound principle of interpretation, or it may not, but it has nothing to say about whether the Bible is inerrant or not. In fact, it more supports inerrancy than otherwise. Inerrancy is a presupposition which hermeneutics must take into account. Parker expresses this very lucidly in his article, Encountering Present-day views of Scripture.

Though the confession of inerrancy does not help us to make the literary judgments that interpretation involves, it commits us in advance to harmonize and integrate all that we find Scripture teaching, without remainder, and so makes possible a theological grasp of Christianity that is altogether believing and altogether obedient.

There are other presuppositions that it might be useful to the reader to know, but I think most would be summed up adequately by saying that I hold a Theistic World View.

As to the scope of this paper, I am not attempting to defend the doctrine of inerrancy, or even of inspiration. I am only seeking to establish my thesis. I shall begin with a short historical analysis of the concept of truth, and show how views of truth have changed through the past centuries. I will then seek to give a method of building a view of truth, and for testing such views. I will show how the modern views of truth are inadequate, and. why the classic view of truth did not satisfy.

All this is to lay the groundwork for a discussion of authority, because authority is ultimately based on truth. I will describe two kinds of authority, showing the adequacy of one, and the inadequacy of the other.

I will then give the major views of Scripture that various errantists have used in an attempt to preserve an adequate authority for Scripture, and I will show why they cannot do so. In conclusion, I will show how inerrancy does provide an adequate authority.

 

I. A short historical analysis of the concept of truth

The classic view of truth is two-fold. First, truth cannot be contradictory (i.e. A cannot at the same time be non-A), and second, it must correspond with reality. This idea of truth assures two things. First, it assures that truth is a unity, for if a truth cannot be contradictory and still be true, then it follows that a truth from the realm of, say, physics cannot contradict a truth from the realm of biology, or one of them is not true. Or, a truth from the realm of history cannot contradict a truth from the realm of theology, or nature, and so on. So if the law of non-contradiction is valid, then there must be a unity to truth, and if the unifying factor can be discovered, all truth can be correlated.

Secondly, it assures that truth will be objective, for it must correspond to reality. That does not, of course, mean that every real proposition is true. A proposition may be a real proposition and yet not be in line with reality (i.e. a lie). Thus, a true proposition about a proposition that does not line up with reality is “that is a lie,” because that lines up with the reality of the falsity of the first proposition.

Neither does this do away with the validity of subjective or relative truth, because both are actually objective assessments of limited or comparative facts. For example, if a person says, “Spinach is good,” that subjective statement may be objectively true as it pertains to that person if in fact he really likes spinach, or thinks that spinach is good even if he does not like it. If so, it is a valid subjective truth, and it is also objectively true as regards that person.

The classical pagan philosophers were unable to correlate all truth, because they lacked. the unifying factor, i.e. the theistic God. The apostles possessed the unifying factor, and were able to build a valid epistemology that could account for both general principles and particular incidents. But with Thomas Aquinas that began to change. He believed that there was some good in the human intellect, that it was not totally depraved.

Bacon followed his lead. Geisler says of him,

After tearing down the “idols” of the old deductive method of discovering truth, Bacon argued that “the best demonstration by far is experience.” The inductive method, he said, is the true way to interpret nature. One can understand how Bacon could consider inductive logic a valid method for scientific inquiry, but he went far beyond reasonable bounds when he claimed universal applicability for his method.

This means that every general principle had to be derived from experience-able details. The fact that he was assuming a general principle a priori (i.e. that reason is capable of interpreting man’s experiences) did not seem to occur to him.

But what would he do with God? For God could not be discovered inductively. Again from Geisler:

For Bacon and even more clearly for Hobbes who followed him, the Bible serves a religious and evocative function -- it leads us to honor and obey God but does not make cognitive truth claims about God nor affirmations about the physical universe.

What Bacon and Hobbes had done, whether or not they realized it, was to deny either non-contradiction or else the truth of theology. Thus they set the groundwork for the destruction of the unity of truth. For Hobbes, religion is absurd, and must be accepted by blind faith. But why accept it if it is not true? And if it is true, you have two kinds of truth that are contradictory! Unity is destroyed, and essentially, non-contradiction is destroyed.

Immanuel Kant also contributed to the loss of unity. He was an agnostic, and taught that we cannot know, only perceive. We can know the “thing-to-me,” (phenomenal) but not the “thing-in-itself” (noumenal). This gulf is impassible by the nature of knowing (i.e. as Bacon taught it). Although he did not deny objective truth, he said we cannot know it. Facts have nothing to do with values, because facts are what we perceive, values are what are real. So perceptions, in his thinking, are objective, realities subjective.

Kierkegaard followed Kant, also making a fact/value dichotomy, but distinguishing between the factual or propositional and. the personal. The two were unrelated. God is beyond proof, the doctrines of God and of inspiration are unfalsifiable, because totally divorced from reason. God then becomes practically subjective. He can only be known by faith, whereas facts are known by reason. So we have the same dichotomy between theological Truth and. natural truth.

It is interesting that Rogers and McKim attribute this same dichotomy to Calvin:

Calvin did not wish to substitute theology for philosophy. Each had. its own appropriate realm -- theology for matters of salvation and the life of faith, and philosophy for matters of worldly wisdom and practice.

It is hard to conceive of Calvin as a modern man!

The third stage is a move to irrationality. Following Bacon’s lead, and moving from specifics to universals, man finally realized that he had to give up the rationality of faith, and theology, but not only that. Everything had to be irrational. Why? Because ideally all facts must be related to a system to be intelligib1e. But man found that facts are so varied that he could not find a system that would cover all of them. He despaired of ever doing so, and concluded that all facts are irrational and unrelated. Rationality is purely a subjective, pragmatic way of looking at things. It must be subjective, because (following Kant) I am the only person that I know exists. I perceive everyone else, and that means they are phenomenal and unknowable. And it must be pragmatic because “If factuality is non-rational, it is expected that rationality will be merely ‘practical’.” It is clear that we cannot live without reason, but if it is unreal, then it must be some make-believe practical system that we adopt to give ourselves security.

Not only does truth become subjective under irrationality, but the way is opened for humanism as well. If my own existence is the only thing I can be sure of, then I must make myself the ultimate reference point for interpreting my perceptions. As Van Til says,

That issue may be stated simply and comprehensively by saying that in the Christian view of things it is the self-contained God who is the final point of reference, while in the case of the modern view it is the would-be self-contained man who is the final point of reference in all interpretation.”

We will see later on what this does to authority.

 

II. An adequate test for systems of truth

If we are ever to arrive at some idea of what truth is, we must have a test by which we evaluate each view of truth.

The first thing we must not do is formulate a test that will, by definition, rule out any view of truth but what we want truth to be. For example, Hume argued against miracles by defining a miracle as something that never happens. If we accept that definition, then of course there are no miracles in reality, because as soon as something happens it is not a miracle, by the definition. Such an argument is not valid. It is a misuse of language.

An adequate view of truth must be able to account for everything; every fact, every observation, every feeling, every illusion. There must be nothing in the universe that is not covered by the system. The only alternative is to give up rationality, and we have shown in the introduction how difficult that is. We should not give it up until we have tried every possibility.

But how can we go about building a system of truth that will cover everything? I would like to suggest that we search for truth in the same way that the legendary Sherlock Holmes sought for criminals.

In the first place, we must not pretend to think without presuppositions. If we think we do, we are deceiving ourselves, and a self-deceived person will never arrive at truth. In fact, our system of truth, ultimately, is our presupposition. So what we really have to test are our presuppositions.

Secondly, we must not limit ourselves to any one way of thinking. Some thinkers have tried to reason from pure deduction, but have not been able to deduce all that is. Others, like Bacon, have tried to reason from induction only, but have not been able to put all their facts into any one system. But is it inconceivable that both methods of thinking could be used together? It ought to be attempted.

Thirdly, one must not rule out, a priori, any system of truth simply because it carries obligations with it, or would demand change of us. That is dishonesty.

How did Holmes operate? He took the facts that he had, and from them induced. several general theories. From these theories he deduced further facts that ought to exist if the theory were correct. Then he would begin to look for those facts. If they did not, in reality, exist, he tried a different theory, and tested it in the same way. At the same time, again inducing, if he discovered a fact that did not fit the theory, he altered or expanded the theory, or else dropped it, and continued on from there.

If we apply this method to modern systems of thought, we are faced with some grave difficulties. Both irrationality and subjectivism are out of line with our minds -- and our minds are part of what is there. Neither one can account for it. We find it impossible to think in a totally irrational manner. Both leave us with subjective truth, and. yet we cannot live with that either, for we are forever trying to persuade other people to think like we do, or at least thinking that they are wrong in the way they think. But if truth is subjective, then nobody is wrong, and. if that were true, we would not think that they are wrong. We are contradicting our presuppositions to suppose so.

Let us postulate a pantheistic world view. Can it account for all that is? Well, it says that all is unity. But is that all there is? Don’t we experience diversity? Ah, yes, but that appearance of diversity is illusion. But surely the illusion is something different from the reality? For if illusion and reality were the same thing, we would never know the difference. Pantheism cannot account for all there is.

Perhaps the universe is all chance. Will that explain all there is? From that premise, we would naturally expect the universe to be random. There is, in that view, no real cause and effect. Why should chance move in an orderly way? We never experience it so. But the world seems to be orderly, not random. And if all is chance, the universe should be impersonal. But that does not account for man, who at least appears to be personal. And if all is chance, why don’t we live that way? Why are we careful what we eat, what we do, etc? For if all is chance, then when I jump off a bridge, I never know if I will fall or not. Chance cannot account for all that is.

Perhaps someone would argue that the classic view of truth as objective and unified has not been able to explain all there is either. We would reply that those who did not find it adequate built it on too narrow a foundation. It can account for all there is, if one admits the possibility of a theistic God.

Working from the general hypothesis of a theistic God, one would expect order in the universe. And in fact, the universe seems to be orderly. One would expect some evidence of personality, and man seems to be personal. A correlation between man and his environment would be expected, and we find such a correlation. We would expect man to have a moral sensibility, and he does. We would. expect a correlation between man’s thoughts, and the place in which he lives, and man does tend to think in terms of correspondence.

We could go on and on. It is granted that an adequate application of this method is beyond the power of the pen, but it is also believed that if anyone will look honestly at the issue, he will see that as there are only a limited number of possibilities, and only one will account for all that is, it must be correct. And if it is, then we have preserved rationality -- unity and objectivity.

 

III. The question of authority

The next question confronting us is, what about authority? What is it? What constitutes an adequate authority?

The dictionary gives several definitions of the word. For example, “A citation (as from a book) used in defense or support of ones actions, opinions, or beliefs,” or “power to require and receive submission: the right to expect obedience.”

Both carry with them the idea of a control of actions and beliefs. Authority is the reason behind what I do and think. Authority is the “ought” of life. Perhaps authority is not necessary, in the ultimate sense of the word, but none the less, “no one ever dispenses with authority, one only relocates it.” Every man attempts always to show reasons why he is right, or why he did what he did, and if he does not, it is because he considers himself the ultimate authority.

J.I. Packer comments that “only truth can have final authority to determine belief and behavior.” The idea is that the “ought” says that I must bring my beliefs and behavior into line with what is true.

But why should I believe what is true? What is wrong with believing something that is false? To many, this question may seem absurd. Of course, it is stupid to deliberately believe a falsehood. But it is a legitimate question none the less. So again I ask, why? Because it is necessary for survival. I will not live long, physically if I refuse to live according to the physical reality of the universe. But even more important, I will not survive spiritually without living in harmony with the spiritual reality of the universe.

Not only does authority involve the demand that we line up with truth, it also involves how we discover truth. Everything we believe we believe on authority. We accept on authority that Julius Caesar was a Roman Emperor. Our authority is history, or more correctly, historians. Our authority for believing something may be another person, or a book, or our own senses, or our own reason. But we always believe by assuming the authority of our source of knowledge. We cannot know without authority.

 

Finally, authority must be as general as the class to which it refers. For example, human beings are all a part of the material universe. Therefore the realities of matter have authority over all mankind. Every man, to survive, must live in line with material reality. No one is exempt from the authority of the reality of gravity. Every unsupported body within the gravitational dominance of the earth falls toward the earth.

So a man needs two things; his authority must be able to tell him what reality is, and also how to live in harmony with the reality.

Authority is based on truth. Therefore since we have two basic concepts of truth, we have also two ideas of authority.

If, as many claim, truth is subjective, then authority is also subjective. The idea of subjective truth is based on the assumption that all that is real is in the subject. The material universe may not be real, nor other people either. All that I know is real is myself. Subjective authority says that the only reality I must line up with is myself, and that I myself can be trusted as the source of truth regarding myself. Now, if in fact reality only involves myself, then subjective authority is adequate. But if reality can apply to things other than myself, such authority is not adequate, because it does not account for all of reality. In fact, truth is not subjective, and this is illustrated by the fact that not even the subjectivists live as though it were. If they do, they don’t live. Even a subjectivist will get out of the way of a Mack truck, if he sees it. Why? Because he recognizes and submits to the objective authority of the laws of motion. Objective authority is adequate, for it accounts for the Mack truck. Subjective authority is not adequate, and the subject knows it.

Some would say that we need objective authority in the material realm, but that subjective authority is adequate in the spiritual realm.

More than a century ago, he [Schleiermacher] taught that the true source of theology was not the Bible but man’s religious consciousness. Thus the objective revelation of God in the Bible was set aside, and man’s subjective opinions were exalted to the position of authority.

Again, the only possible way to hold this is to assume that man is the only spiritual reality in the universe. If there is a God who is real, subjective authority cannot account for him.

It may be argued that objective authority is not adequate either, because it demands that I be in harmony with all of reality, and I cannot know all of reality. By this argument, I should not be surviving. This objection is invalid on two counts. Not all of reality is applicable to me directly and at all times. If there are no elephants where I live, then truths about elephants may not be applicable to me at present. Secondly, it does not take the theistic God into account. If he is the creator, then we can expect him to be in harmony with all of reality. And therefore, if we are in harmony with him, we will be in harmony with all of reality. That does not mean that we approve of all reality. The way to be in harmony with the reality of sin, for example, is to hate it, and expect it to be judged, finally.

In summary, subjective authority is not adequate, because it takes myself only into account. If there is any reality there, besides myself, subjective authority cannot account for it, and any attempt to do so is no more authoritative than anyone elses' attempt.

Objective authority, on the other hand, is adequate if the source is dependable and knowledgeable. Keep in mind that a source may be dependable and knowledgeable in a limited sphere, and so be adequate authority in that limited sphere, but remain an inadequate authority in a broader sphere. For example, our senses are a reliable source of objective authority, in a limited. sphere (the material) and when their frailties are taken into account (i.e. one must be tested against the other, for our senses may be deceiving; and their limits must be recognized). That the senses are a relatively objective authority is seen in the fact that by following them we manage to survive, whereas when they are impaired (i.e. as through alcohol consumption), non-survival increases. But our senses, on the other hand , are not an adequate objective authority for direct spiritual awareness.

 

 

IV. The search for authority in errancy

 

There are perhaps two main reasons why many evangelicals have repudiated the inerrancy of Scripture. The first is because of apparent internal contradictions. They believe that there are things in Scripture that do not harmonize; such as various dates, etc. The second reason is that they believe there are things in Scriptures that contradict the findings of science. Berkouwer tacitly admits this, when he says, “This has gone hand in hand with an increasing revulsion against ‘harmonism’ and ‘concordism’ phenomena which all too often advance a view of Scripture that demands too much of it.”

Stephen Davis says that the Bible should be authoritative for every Christian on all that it says on any subject until he comes across something which he judges that he, for good reasons, cannot accept.

What the errantists may not realize is that they had to shift their authority before they could assert that there are any errors in the Bible. If scripture is our absolute authority, then what contradicts it must be wrong, and contradictions within it must be apparent, and should be possible to harmonize with proper hermeneutics and further light. Only if I, a priori, admit that there are other authorities at least equal to Scripture, can I admit to errors in Scripture. This attitude toward Scripture is not in the least a necessary one. Better scholarship is constantly reducing the internal conflicts in Scripture, and science is a very unstable pillar to build one’s authority upon. It is continually changing its dogmas. For example, Scripture was once scoffed at for talking about the sun rising, (though every scientist, in everyday language, speaks of the sunrise and sunset). But now, with the advent of relativity, scientist say that it really doesn’t matter whether you speak of the sun going around the earth, or the earth around the sun; it all depends on your frame of reference, anyway. We have no way of knowing for sure which way it is. So old concepts of science are shown to be out of date, and if the Bible is allowed to change by every whim of science, it may be false today and true tomorrow.

Errantists have recognized that with their view of inspiration, Biblical authority was placed on a flimsy foundation, and have proposed a variety of theories to maintain the authority of an errant Scripture. But none of them are adequate to do so, as we shall see in the remainder of this paper.

In these systems there is bound to be overlap, as they all have some things in common, and a few things are common to all. This should be kept in mind as we proceed.

The first theory that we will examine is the theory of accommodation, or adaptation.

The basic idea of this theory is that God accommodated himself to humanity in the Scriptures in order to make them comprehensible to man, and in so doing, had to incorporate errors. It is often likened to a little child who’s father talks to him in a truncated language, accommodating himself to the child’s vocabulary and understanding. Pinnock uses this argument, claiming that it is not necessary for the Bible to be inerrant just because it is inspired, because God uses fallible human beings all the time to proclaim his word, and he accomplishes his purpose by it.

There are several assumptions of this view that should be pointed out. First, that the Bible errs because it presents things as they appear, rather than as they are. Second, the idea that if God accommodates himself to human language, he must err, because humans err. Thirdly, the idea that because the Bible emphasizes certain things, it may err in what it dots not emphasize. And finally, because it is written by men, it must err, because men err.

This view is often taken further, to say that God not only accommodated himself to human language, but to the Hebrew thought forms and to the contemporary culture as well.

An integral and practical part of the theory of accommodation is the separation of the “human” and “divine” elements of Scripture. Pinnock says, “Although Protestant orthodoxy confesses both the divine and the human element in the Bible, as it also does in Christology, it has been happier affirming its divine authority than admitting its human characteristics.” He says further, “The prime theological issue which became evident in our survey of options on biblical authority is the need to maintain with equal force both the humanity and the divinity of the word of Scripture.”

The idea of this dichotomy is that the Bible is the writing of men, written with their own peculiar literary style, their own backgrounds, viewpoints, world views, education, and so on as a foundation for that writing. It is contended that they must have erred, since their world view would be as erroneous as their contemporaries’.

 

In fact, there is a legitimate idea of accommodation. God did condescend to speak in human language. There is no other way for him to make himself intelligible to man. But it does not follow that language therefore must err, in that it is human. A father, in accommodating himself to a small child, does not necessarily misinform him, simply because he is speaking a child language. Although he may not be able to give comprehensive truth, in the sense of saying all that could be said, due to the child’s limited understanding, what he says can still be precise. Neither is strict precision always necessary, and when it is not needed lack of it is not a fault. I may, in everyday conversation, speak of the “five mile corner.” That is adequate and true, for in normal usage, nobody would expect me to say “five miles, three feet, four point zero zero one six three inches.” It would not mean anything to anyone anyway. Rounding is an accepted language procedure.

Young demonstrates that within the context of a Biblical view of truth there is room for crudity and roughness of literary style, including improper grammatical structure, variations of parallel accounts of events, discourses, etc. but not room for contradiction or deception. Phenomenological, anthropomorphic, hyperbolic, etc. forms of language do not negate or falsify truth.

Human language may err, but it does not necessarily do so. As to God accommodating himself to Hebrew thought forms, there is, of course, a nucleus of truth here. The Old Testament is written in Hebrew, in Hebrew style, and reflecting Hebrew thought. But although a language does reflect the thought forms of a culture, it is not bound to them. James Barr argues that it is an unsound linguistic procedure to make the supposed thought structure of a language group dictate the possible meanings of the words in that language. Although the language may reflect the thought patterns of a group, it can express truths not dominant in the particular thought pattern. It is true that to interpret correctly, we must be aware of such things, but that is hermeneutics. It does not follow that the Bible errs.

Again, it is argued that Scripture adapts to and reflects human culture, and. so must err. To put it more clearly, the Bible can be discounted where it touches on culture, because it was only reflecting the culture of the day, and that culture is not necessarily right. Of this idea Warfield says:

The fact is that the theory of ‘accommodation’ is presented by Mr. Stuart only to enable him the more easily to refuse to be bound by the apostolic teaching in this matter, and as such it has served him as a stepping stone by which he has attained to an even more drastic principle, on which he practically acts: that wherever the apostle can be shown to agree with their contemporaries, their teaching may be neglected.

It obviously does not follow that agreement with contemporaries indicates error, especially as it may be noticed that on many points the Bible counters current culture.

Perhaps the overall argument here is that the Bible, as a human book, must be subject to error, but that in it’s divine aspect, it is authoritative. This may sound reasonable, but three things need to be realized. First, because it is a human book, it does not necessarily err. Christ was human, and yet did not err. This we must hold to, for “had he been mistaken... the church could well ask whether any single teaching of Jesus on any subject (including the way of salvation) might not also reflect his sincere misunderstanding.” To postulate that Jesus erred is to destroy his authority. Secondly, if the Bible errs because it is human, the Holy Spirit, as supervisor of the work, must still be held responsible for all errors. Let us imagine an executive secretary, who’s boss instructs her to write a letter, giving such and such information, and when it is finished, to bring it to him for his signature. She writes the letter, couching it in her own style, her own vocabulary, and so on. She brings it to the boss, he reads it and signs it. When he puts his signature on it, he is endorsing all it contains. If there are errors in it, he was responsible to catch them and have them corrected before he signed it. He is responsible. In the same sense, the Holy Spirit “signed” the Scriptures. He is responsible for every error. But, though it might have been error through ignorance on the part of the human author, on the part of the Holy Spirit, it is a lie, for he is not ignorant. If the Holy Spirit lies, his authority is destroyed. He cannot be trusted.

Finally, if the Bible is Human and Divine, and the human element admits errors, who or what determines what the errors are, and what is not error? Perhaps it would be advocated that Scripture itself witnesses to the difference. But what principle of Scripture would indicate how to tell its errors from truth? And should we find such a principle, what is to guarantee that the principle itself is not part of the errant matter, and so invalid?

Perhaps we will allow science, in the broadest sense of that term, to determine what is error and what is not. But in that case, science, not the Bible, has become my final authority; and besides, science, or at least scientists, are not infallible. How do I know that they are not in error regarding which parts of Scripture err? Is the authority of fallible scientists adequate for spiritual matters? Will I place my soul’s eternal destiny in their hands? Perhaps you would say that we must use our own judgment as to where science, or the Scripture errs. But now, I am become my own authority. Where do I get my guidelines for discernment? I cannot get them from Scripture; that is what needs discerning. I am left with a subjective authority, and we have already seen that such an authority is totally inadequate,

The concept of accommodation as the errantist present it leaves us without an adequate authority. In the final analysis, it leaves me alone with myself. I cannot know for sure, the validity of anything outside myself.

Before discussing the “limited inerrancy” view, I want to deal briefly with a concept proposed by Berkouwer, that is closely allied with accommodation. It is the idea of “time-boundedness.”

Moreover, the Word finds its way through periods having their own social structures and “cultural patterns” -- customs and concepts relative to the particular period. The Word of God does not remain aloof from this, but is heard in the midst of it. As a result, the time-boundedness of certain admonitions and prohibitions is clear to all. Various statements by Paul regarding womanhood and marriage constitute some of the most discussed illustrations of this particular problem of time-boundness.

The obvious idea is that because the Word is “time-bound” it cannot give objective truth in regards to such things as womanhood. Scripture reflected, not God’s mind, but the mind of the men of the day, in certain things. He gives a further example of this argument.

One should also mention Paul’s ‘argument’ that man was not made from women, but woman from man, and that man is now born of woman (I Cor. 18:8-12). It is evident that one cannot make an inch of progress by speaking of the “correctness” of such words in the abstract.

The implication of what he is saying is clear. Creation is an out-modded, “time-bound” concept (of course God didn’t really make Eve from Adam’s rib. That is only a story, a legend of the Hebrews), and so we don’t believe it. Because Paul’s argument is based on this “time-bound” concept, then it is also time-bound, and we don’t believe it either. But the upshot of it all is, that I can refuse anything in Scripture on that basis, for all of it was written more than one thousand years ago. Who is to determine what has been affected by time, and what has not? Ultimately, I must determine that for myself, according to what seems reasonable to me, and that means that my authority is again subjective. But a subjective authority is not adequate for objective truth.

Berkouwer claims that Paul himself supports the “time-boundedness” idea.

Besides, we note how Paul himself gives an indication of this situation and time-boundedness He emphatically answers questions which have been sent to him (I Cor. 7:1), and he considers something to be right “in view of the impending distress” (I Cor. 7:26).

Actually, this argues against the concept, for the fact that Paul goes out of his way to express the “time-boundedness” of this situation indicates that other situations are not time-bound, else why make a special case of this one?

The second theory that we want to discuss, and perhaps the most popular, is the “limited inerrancy” theory. Benedict Spinoza taught the basic tenant of this view -- that the Bible is authoritative in religious matters only. He carried it further perhaps then modern day evangelicals would, for he said that the Bible has nothing to say to reason; science is for the intellect, religion is for the will. Perhaps he was more consistent than some of his modern counterparts.

Francis Schaeffer explains this view as follows:

The issue is whether the Bible gives propositional truth (that is, truth that may be stated in propositions) where it touches history and the cosmos, and this all the way back to the first eleven chapters of Genesis, or whether instead of that it is only meaningful where it touches that which is considered religious.

 

Harold Lindsell says it this way: “The sum of it is this: Whatever has to do with the gospel in the Bible is inspired and can be trusted; whatever does not have to do with the gospel has errors in it -- it is not inerrant.”

And Geisler quotes Davis: “Davis says, ‘there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible,’ and adds, ‘I have found none on matters of faith and practice.

It is a simple enough theory on the surface, and it looks as if it might do the job of providing an adequate authority without total inerrancy. But if we examine it closely, we find that it has serious problems.

The first serious difficulty is that we must open up the question of canonicity, at least in a practical way. Unless God inspires error, then what is erroneous is not inspired. Even if it is, it cannot stand on the same level as that which is inerrant. Gerstner points out:

We realize that some who disagree with inerrancy are claiming inspiration for parts of the Bible, the so-called salvation parts. Very well, but then they cannot title their position biblical authority but only partial biblical authority. To add insult to injury to God’s Word, they cannot tell precisely what parts of the Bible are inspired. They say “salvation parts,” but they do not tell us where to find these or how to separate them from the uninspired, errant, non-salvation parts.

In his evaluation of Rogers and McKim’s proposals, Woodbridge comments,

The author’s description of the Bible creates for them the same kind of dilemma that neo-orthodox scholars before them faced: how to distinguish the infallible “central saving message” from the errant “difficult surrounding material.” This is a critical problem because Christianity is grounded in the dirt and dust of human history. Salvation truths are planted in the Bible’s historical discourse about things that happened.

Further, R.C. Sproul says,

Evangelical advocates of limited inerrancy are not expected to embrace Bultmann’s mythical view of New Testament super-naturalism. But their method has no inherent safeguard from an arbitrary delimitation of the scope of the biblical canon.

This is a very serious problem, and the answers that are given only raise more problems, as we shall see.

The second major problem is the old problem of unity of truth. The point is that if truth is a unity, then it is all interrelated, and if I believe error in one field of truth, it will affect my beliefs in all areas. Montgomery puts it this ways:

Regardless of how carefully the view point is stated, it necessarily involves a dualism between what is infallibly reliable in the Bible and what is not;... Not only does the Bible itself offer a monistic philosophy, of knowledge, but this viewpoint is necessitated by the very nature of the fields of knowledge themselves. Only the naive specialist really believes that science is qualitatively different from geography, or geography from history, or history from ethics, or ethics from theology.

This point cannot be given up without ultimately giving up rationality. If there is no integral relation between the fields of truth, then truth is not a unity. Jesus made this point, by arguing moral principles on scientific fact.

In short, we cannot separate science and Scripture. When the Bible declares that Jesus was born of a virgin, then it affirms a biological truth as well as a spiritual one. And when Jesus answered the question about divorce by saying, “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the creator ‘made them male and female’” (Matt. 19:4), He not only laid down a moral principle but made a scientific pronouncement as well. The scientific cannot be separated from the spiritual without doing violence to the spiritual.

Montgomery supports this idea when he says,

“Kenotic” (limitation) theories will not solve this dilemma. A meaningful incarnation demands an incarnate God who knows what He is doing -- on earth as it is in heaven -- and tells the truth -- on earth as it is in heaven. This is precisely the Jesus of Gospel accounts: the One who knows that He existed before Abraham, who condemns lying as a mark of the devil, and who so unites reliability in secular” matters with “theological” reliability that He can say to Nicodemus (and to us), “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believed not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things.

This last point of Jesus to Nicodemus would seem to clinch the argument, except that if you believe in errancy, then Jesus may have been in error when he said it.

We must agree with Montgomery when he says further,

The point does not require belaboring~ For practical purposes we may -- perhaps we must -- distinguish between “historical ,“ “geographical,” and “theological” statements in Holy Writ; but these distinctions are no more inherent to reality than the divisions between hand and wrist or trunk and branches. It is thus logically impossible to argue for an alleged perfection resident “spiritually” in Scripture while admitting imperfections in Scriptural knowledge viewed from a “secular” standpoint. Fallibility in the latter necessitates fallibility in the former --and this leaves one incapable of affirming a single doctrinal or moral teaching of the Bible with finality.

Is it any wonder then that those, such as the Roman Catholic exegete Loisy, beginning with “relative inerrancy” (the Bible erroneous only in matters of science and history) and pursuing vigorously the implications of this viewpoint, ultimately conclude “that the principle of relative truth is in fact of universal application”? 

It should be obvious that if we do away with the unity of truth, we are left with a subjective authority; for if truths can contradict, I am left to choose between the contradictory truths. As Sproul says, “How do we escape dehistoricizing the gospel and relegating it to a level of supra-temporal existential ‘decision’?”

It cannot be done, and we are without an adequate authority.

The third serious problem of the limited inerrancy view is that it places the inerrant material in the Bible outside of any test --it cannot be verified or falsified -- and faith becomes blind; a leap in the dark. R.C. Sproul says of this problem,

To those critics outside the fellowship of evangelicals, the notion of “limited inerrancy” appears artificial and contrived. Limited inerrancy gets us off the apologetical hook by making us immune to religious-historical criticism. We can eat our cake and have it too. The gospel is preserved; and our faith and practice remains intact while we admit errors in matters of history and cosmology. We cannot believe the Bible concerning earthly things, but we stake our lives on what it says concerning heavenly things. That approach was totally abrogated by our Lord (John 3:12).

How do we explain and defend the idea that the Bible is divinely superintended in part of its content but not all of it? Which part is inspired? Why only the faith and practice parts? Again, which are the faith and practice parts? Can we not justly be accused of “weaseling” if we adopt such a view? We remove our faith from the arena of historical verification or falsification. This is a fatal blow for apologetics as the reasoned defense of Christianity.

To do this makes experience the only test of truth in the religious realm. And if we do this, what have we left? This move was foreseen by T.H. Huxley, as Schaeffer points out:

T.H. Huxley, the biologist, the friend of Darwin, the grandfather of Aldous and Julian Huxley, wrote in 1890 that he visualized the day not far hence in which faith would be separated from all fact, and especially all pre-Abrahamic history, and that faith would then go on triumphant forever. This is an amazing quote for 1890 before the birth of existential philosophy or existential theology. He indeed foresaw something clearly. I am sure that he and his friends considered this some kind of a joke, because they would have understood well that if faith is separated from fact and specifically pre-Abrahamic space-time history, it is only another form of what we today call a trip.

 

Schaeffer goes on to say:

 

What I quoted in chapter one from T.H. Huxley applies at specifically this place. J.S. Bezzant, an old-fashioned liberal at Cambridge University, in Objections to Christian Belief also puts his finger on the problem of those who separate the portions of Genesis, and the Bible as a whole, that speak of history and the cosmos from those that speak of religious matters. In general, Bezzant speaks against historic Christianity itself, but suddenly he swings around and speaks to neo-orthodoxy. And he says this: “When I am told that it is precisely its immunity from proof which secures the Christian proclamation from the charge of being mythological I reply that immunity from proof can ‘secure’ nothing whatever except immunity from proof, and call nonsense by its name.” The neo-orthodox position is that the Bible makes mistakes in the areas of history and science, but we are to believe it anyway in the religious areas. The result is that religious things simply become “truth” inside one’s head -- just as the drug experience or the Eastern religious experience is “truth” inside of one’s head.

The moment I make truth untestable, it becomes empirical, and it is therefore subjective. If I argue from experience, how can I refute someone elses' experience, which may be different from mine? If Christianity can be said to be true on the basis of experience, then so can Buddhism — for Buddhists also have experience. We have only a subjective authority, and that is not adequate.

It is interesting to note that God gave his people an objective, factual test by which to check the authority of all prophets (Deut. 18:22), and Paul based the truth of Christianity squarely on the historical fact of the resurrection (I Cor. 15:17).

The fourth serious difficulty is closely related to the first. It is simply this. How do I determine what is religious truth and what is not? Lindsell very clearly states the problem.

Once limited inerrancy is accepted, it places the Bible in the same category with every other book that has ever been written. Every book contains in it some things that are true. And what is true is inerrant. Only two things remain to be determined, once this position is acknowledged. The first is what proportion of the book is true and what proportion is false. It may be 90% false and 10% true; or it may be 90% true and 10% false. The second thing that needs to be determined is what parts of the book are true. Since the book contains both truth and falsehood, of necessity, other criteria outside of the book must be brought to bear upon it to determine what is false and what is true. Whatever the source of the other criteria, that becomes the judge of the book in question. Thus the book becomes subordinate to the standard against which it’s truth is determined and measured.

It is clear that the language of Scripture itself cannot tell us which parts are “faith end practice” parts, and which are not. James Barr, himself no friend of inerrancy, makes this plain.

In other words, the sacred tradition of the apostolic church is never purely “religious language,” and still less so is the Old Testament as the sacred tradition of Israel. But the non-religious language of the Bible is of Theological importance just as the religious language is.

If Scripture’s language itself cannot clear up the question, then we must bring an outside source to bear on it. Commenting further on the Rogers McKim proposals, Woodbridge says,

They do say, however, that “ancient principles must be applied using all that we can learn about language and culture from the human and social sciences of the twentieth century” (p. 461). What this means in practicality is that the infallible salvation material can shrink or expand in accordance with the latest givens in higher biblical criticism, cultural anthropology, or findings from other disciplines. As the changing “givens of modernity” set standards for understanding Scripture for Bultmann, so they do for Rogers and McKim. In a word, the believer is obliged to give up the doctrine of sola Scriptura as the Reformers perceived it because his or her reason influenced by shifting “givens” becomes another authority. Our reason helps us to determine an infallible canon within the Scripture. Ironically, then, Rogers and McKim’s proposal which they package as one of “faith” before “reason” cracks the door open to the radical criticism of the Bible. Their unqualified fideism concerning the role of the Holy Spirit in confirming the authority of Scripture to believers is matched by an apparent unqualified confidence in reason’s rights to superintend biblical studies.

It is obvious that if you judge the Bible by an outside source, and that source is fallible, then in the final analysis, your own mind is the ultimate authority. J.I. Packer says:

He who makes his own judgment his grounds for rejecting anything in the Bible thereby logically makes his own judgment, rather than trust in God’s truthfulness, his ground for accepting everything in the Bible that he does accept.

This is seen quite clearly in Geisler’s quote of Davis: “Davis says, ‘there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible,’ and adds, ‘I have found none on matters of faith and practice.’” The words ‘I have found none’ give him away. It shows that even in the areas of faith and practice, he is on the lookout for errors, showing that ultimately he judges all of Scripture by himself as standard. Such a standard is obviously subjective. It can be concluded then, that if inerrancy is limited, we must apply subjective authority in discovering what is true and what is false, and such authority is inadequate.

The fifth difficulty is what has been termed the “domino theory.” Sproul describes this problem very well.

Frequently this concern is dismissed out of hand as being so much alarmism. But our doctrine of Scripture is not a child’s game of dominoes. We know instances in which men have abandoned belief if full inerrancy but have remained substantially orthodox in the rest of their Theology. We are also aware of the sad instances in which full inerrancy is affirmed yet the substance of theology is corrupt. Inerrancy is no guarantee of Biblical orthodoxy. Yet even a cursory view of church history has shown some patterns of correlation between a weakening of Biblical authority and a serious defection regarding the Wesen of Christianity. The Wesen of nineteenth century liberalism is hardly the gospel evangelicals embrace.

We have already seen, within evangelical circles, a move from limited inerrancy to challenges of matters of faith and practice. When the apostle Paul is depicted as espousing two mutually contradictory views of the role of women in the church, we see a critique of apostolic teaching that does touch directly on the practice of the church.

Geisler points outs:

Davis says, “there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible” and adds, “I have found none on matters of faith and practice.” However he speaks confidently of Paul’s sexism and even of Jesus’ mistaken belief about the time of His second coming.

Surely these are matters of faith and practice. Sproul says:

In the hotly disputed issue of homosexuality we see denominational commissions not only supplementing biblical authority with corroborative evidence drawn from modern sources of medical psychological study but also “correcting” the biblical view by such secular authority.

Obviously the domino theory is not “alarmism.” It is a real danger. That this domino effect exists does not prove anything as regards inerrancy, but it is evidence of the subjective nature of biblical authority with limited inerrancy.

A third method of trying to secure adequate authority for the errancy position is an appeal to church history. Rogers and McKim’s book is an excellent example of this. We will not deal extensively with this attempt, as it is so obviously a weak one, but it does deserve some attention.

In the forward to Rogers and McKim’s book, this statement is made.

To take seriously once more Calvin’s teaching on the Holy Scripture and its roots in Christian history and in the Bible itself means to restore the place of the Holy Spirit, not only as the inspirer of real, living human authors, but as the inspirer too of real, living human interpreters.

In the text of the book, Rogers and McKim say, “Calvin did not wish to substitute theology for philosophy. Each had it’s own appropriate realm -- theology for matters of salvation and the life of faith, and philosophy for matters of worldly wisdom and practice.”

Obviously the writers believe that Calvin did not believe in the full inerrancy of Scripture. Example after example of this could be given. Now of course, it can be argued with a great deal of force that this premise is false, and that the historic position of the Christian church is inerrancy. That is Woodbridge’s position, in his reply to Rogers and McKim. And Berkouwer, himself an errantist, seems to lend credence to the idea that the church did believe in inerrancy when he says,

There can be no doubt that for a long time during church history certainty of faith was specifically linked to the trustworthiness of Holy Scripture as the Word of God. Undoubtedly, Herman Bavinck is referring to this when he writes that there is no doctrine “on which there is more unanimity than on that of Holy Scripture.” From its earliest days the church held that Scripture is not an imperfect, humanly untrustworthy book of various religious experiences, but one with a peculiar mystery, even though the nature of that mystery was often a point of controversy.

But supposing it should be proven that the reformers, and the church fathers did believe the Bible to be errant. That would not make it true, for the church is not infallible. If it were, we would not need Scripture. If orthodoxy is false, let us by all means forsake orthodoxy. The reformers did, when they defied the authority of Rome. So the argument from church history is an extremely weak one.

The fourth attempt at retaining authority while holding to an errant Scripture is the view of neo-orthodoxy. It may be true that evangelicals today do not hold to neo-orthodoxy, but many are proposing a doctrine of Scripture that has varying degrees of similarity to the neo-orthodox position on Scripture, and therefore, it must be examined.

Although Karl Barth is considered the father of neo-orthodoxy, we need to go back to Soren Kierkegaard to find it’s real roots, for neo-orthodoxy is a form of religious existentialism.

Of Kierkegaard’s philosophy Geisler says, “Truth is a subjective encounter with God for which one has no good reason but which one must appropriate by a passionate ‘leap’ of faith. Indeed, Kierkegaard taught that all truth is subjective. He elevated faith as opposed to reason, and taught that there must be no reason for faith, because faith with a factual basis isn’t really faith. He said that the true object of faith was a paradox, not a fact. Truth is a subjective experience.

Nygren says, “Lessing constantly emphasized the search for the truth rather than the results of the search,” and that this was with Kierkegaard’s approval.

We find in Barth the same concept. Barth also finds truth in paradox. For him, there is no certain “yes” or “no”, but rather truth is in the tension between the two; certainty then becomes the greatest enemy of truth, because that tension must be maintained if the search for truth is to go on. In other words, truth is not something that you can know , only an experience you have in the midst of the throes of the dilemma between “yes” and “no.” This philosophy carries into the Bible as well. To Barth, the Bible is “through and through dialectic.”

What then is the neo-orthodox idea of the Bible? To them the Bible is not the Word of God, but it witnesses too the Word of God. It is myth, which illustrates to mens' mind truth, but truth that is not true until he recognizes it as such. It is not propositional truth, but emotional truth.

Barth says:

The Bible is the literary monument of an ancient racial religion and of a Hellenistic cultus religion of the Near East. A human document like any other, it can lay no a priori dogmatic claim to special attention and consideration. This judgment, being announced by every tongue and believed in every territory, we may take for granted today.

To him, it was not God, but Moses who created the law. “Why was it that Moses was able to create a law which for purity and humanity puts us moderns only to shame?”

The Genesis accounts of creation “are not at all an academic account of our beginnings. They are a powerful sermon (almost a song) that celebrate God’s power and glory over all the elements and objects of the universe which Israel’s neighbors falsely worshiped.” He says further, “For the same reason the Biblical idea of the creation is never expended into a cosmogony. It is intended for a solemn marking of the distance between the cosmos and the Creator, and precisely not for a metaphysical explanation of the World.”

For Barth, God is so separate from his creation that there is no positive contact between the two. There is no possibility of a human and divine coming together, so the Bible is purely human. God cannot serve. He must rule. He must himself grasp, seize, manage, use. He can satisfy no other needs than his own. He is not in another world over against this one; he submerges all of this in the other. He is not a thing among other things, but the Wholly Other, the infinite aggregate of all merely relative others.”

God is so far removed that objective, propositional communication to us is impossible. Barth complains that “instead of being the document of the axiomatic, the Bible tends to become to us a document of objective historical information.”

The Bible is faulty in its morals:

Abraham, for instance, as the highest proof of his faith desires to sacrifice his son to God; Jacob wins the birthright by a refined deception of his blind father; Elijah slays the four hundred and fifty priests of Baal by the brook Kishon. Are these exactly praiseworthy examples?

Van Til tells us,

In practice for Brunner ... the Bible cannot teach anything about the “phenomenal world.” According to the critical principle adopted in earlier works and assumed in the present one, the phenomenal world is the world of impersonal forces. And revelation is said to deal with the world of “personal encounter”.

Packer says that “the Bible that is thought of as man’s testament of religious feeling, self-understanding, and ethical inklings is not really the same book as the Bible that is received as God’s testimony to himself,” expressing the neo-orthodox view as contrasted with his own.

So basically the Bible is a human book, faulty, inaccurate, mythological, not proposing propositional truth, a record of religious feelings. What then has become of God’s Word?

It would be false to say that the neo-orthodox do not believe that there are propositions in Scripture; only that the propositions are not true. Indeed with existentialism, a proposition cannot be true, because truth is experience. But the propositions may point to truth.

Propositions are merely pointers; and pointers can be effective whether they are true or false. Brunner states very clearly that a pointer need not be true. Even a false proposition points, because God is free from the limitations of abstract truth and can reveal himself in false statements as easily as in true.

For the neo-orthodox, “The word of God is within the Bible.” 

That is not to say that parts of the Bible are the Word of God, and parts of it are not. Rather all of the Bible, whether true or false, may be the Word of God, if it reveals God to me. If it does not, then it is not the Word of God. The Bible is not true, it becomes true. “With this conscious reservation, that we are saying something that we do not know, that is true only when it becomes true, let the page now be turned, and the Bible’s final suggestion be taken up (as a suggestion!).”

The Bible cannot command -- it is not knowable; it becomes true, but truth cannot be known. Indeed, one could almost say that in reality, the Word of God is not in the Bible, but rather in us, and the Bible stimulates us to find it there. The Word of God is a “Mysterium tremendum that draws the men of the Bible before our eyes out and on to the edge of all experience, thought, and action, to the edge of time and history, and impels them to attempt to leap off into the air, where obviously no man can stand.” Here is the existential leap of faith -- no knowing, only believing.

In fact, the Word of God, and God himself ultimately become one. “We are asked to drop all metaphysics once and for all. When speaking of God’s transcendence we are not to think of some being existing in self-contained form prior to his relation to man. God is identical with his revelation.”

Such is the Word of God to the neo-orthodox. It is vague, mysterious, unknowable, never certain. In the paradox of Scripture, in the midst of its absurdity, one finds God in experience, in the midst of tension. Such an experience cannot really be communicated, and indeed no two will be alike.

So where is biblical authority in all this? Why do we believe? That is the crucial question.

It must surely be obvious that in a system where truth is subjective, and any claim to certainty is regarded as “sin”, that all authority must be subjective.

We find men everywhere who desire to acknowledge as from God only such Scriptures as ‘find them,” -- who cast the clear objective enunciation of God’s will to the mercy of the currents of thought and feeling which sweep up and down in their own souls.

Custer says that “every man’s mind becomes his own authority.”

It is true that the illumination of the Holy Spirit is often appealed to, to deliver from subjectivism.

Let it be said that both positions [Roman Catholic and neo-orthodox] invoke the Holy Spirit, the former as author of both Scripture and tradition, the latter as illuminating mind and conscience to enable each individual to formulate his personal understanding of Christianity.

We will deal more with this later, but let it be said here that this sounds good -- if it would work. But many people who all claim to be illuminated by the Spirit have contradictory views. You may say that the other person is not being led by the Spirit, really, and is therefore wrong. But on what basis are you going to argue that? If only by your own illumination by the Spirit, how do you test your own? How do you know yours is not false, and his is not true? And you cannot argue from Scripture, because it is in error, and illumination is supposed to be what clears it up. You have to decide who’s illumination is true before you know what Scripture is true.

Of course, in neo-orthodoxy it really doesn’t matter; both may be correct, for truth is not certainty, but experience. In any case, authority is subjective and therefore not adequate.

The truth is that the neo-orthodox enterprise of trying to re-establish the authority of biblical teaching on salvation while rejecting biblical teaching on Scripture is inherently inconsistent and self-contradictory; thus, all versions of neo-orthodoxy, like all versions of liberalism before them, exhibit a built-in arbitrariness that it is not possible to eliminate.

Though evangelicals may not follow neo-orthodoxy in its extreme, their borrowing from it results in the same subjectivity. Berkeley Michelsen, writing in Biblical Authority says, “In whatever way man responds to God, man establishes God’s authority.” Surely that is saying essentially the same as Barth did? God has no authority objectively -- it is in the individual personal response that authority is born. Such authority can only be subjective. Rogers and Hubbard also seem very near neo-orthodoxy, with the idea that Scripture is not all the word of God and that the real truth of Scripture is unfalsifiable and is accepted by what amounts to a blind faith.

Perhaps it should be mentioned in passing that many inerrantists who continually find “guidance” in Scripture apart from it’s contextual meaning are practicing neo-orthodoxy. Such guidance is in an unfalsifiable position, being unrelated to the meaning of the text, and essentially amounts to a claim of direct revelation from God. We must be careful not to base our actions and beliefs on such purely subjective grounds as this.

There is no escape of subjectivism on any level of neo-orthodoxy, and thus it provides no adequate authority.

The fifth major area of attempt at securing authority without inerrancy is by substituting a new view of truth. We said at the beginning of this paper that the classic view of truth was a correspondence view, or non-contradiction. Such a view says that truth is what corresponds to reality. And of course, error is what does not correspond to reality. This means that truth is a characteristic of propositions, not of reality. Reality is, truth is a statement that is in line with that reality. Reality is neither true or false. A lie can be real, but it is not true. In this view, a true person is one who is trustworthy -- he always makes true statements.

There is a new view of truth being applied today. It is an intentionalist view of truth. In other words, a statement is true if it accomplishes what the author intended it to accomplish. Now in this case, a statement might be true even if some or all of its content does not correspond with reality. On the other hand, if it does not accomplish its purpose, it is false even if all the information in it is factually correct.

Also, by this view, a person could be regarded as true, if he lives up to someone’s intentions for him. Under this view, the Bible could be true, even if it has factually incorrect statements in it. Minor errors are immaterial, because they do not hinder the salvation message from getting across.

This appears like a very convenient view of truth for the errantist to adopt. Let’s examine it a little more closely, however, and see some of its implications.

In this view a lie is, if not impossible, at least nearly impossible to discover. If a person tells something that is not correct, with the intent to deceive, then he told the truth, if in fact he did deceive. Thus, to be adept at deceiving is virtuous, by this view, and a person who is a great deceiver is the most true. Satan becomes, then, nearly as true as God, for he is the great deceiver.

In this view also, the 9th commandment does not make sense. “Do not bear false witness” would have to mean that everything you say must accomplish its purpose. But surely that is partly relative to your neighbor? If you intend to inform him, and he is a real idiot, you might be a liar no matter how hard you try, and you could not help but break that commandment.

Though there may be a measure of value in the intention view of truth, it is obviously inadequate. Courts of justice are a farce, by this view.

Errantists generally do not take this view to its logical conclusion, but let’s notice how they do make use of it, Berkouwer comments thus:

For if instrumentality is related to this one central witness, then the term “continuity” can legitimately by used in the doctrine of the God-breathed Scripture without falling into dualism. For this is in harmony with the purpose of God-breathed Scripture. One can never have a clear conception of the latter when it is “formally” approached under the category of correctness or conformity with reality; it must be approached in direct relation to the nature and content of Scripture. For the purpose of the God-breathed Scripture is not at all to provide a scientific gnosis, in order to convey and increase human knowledge and wisdom; but to witness of the salvation of God unto faith. This approach does not mean to separate faith and knowledge. But the knowledge that is the unmistakable aim of Scripture is the knowledge of faith, which does not increase human wisdom, but is life eternal (Jn. 17:3).

He claims not to separate faith and knowledge. Yet such is the inevitable result of his view. If Scripture truth is governed by its purpose, then it is intentional, and is clearly a different kind of truth than scientific truth; or else, if scientific truth is also intentional, then it is meaningless. Dualism is not avoided.

He says later on,

It is not that Scripture offers us no information but that the nature of this information is unique. It is governed by the purpose of God’s revelation. The view of inspiration that forms the basis of the misunderstanding of this purpose considers “inerrancy” essential as a parallel characterization of reliability; that is a flight of fancy away from this purpose.

There is one more basic fallacy of this whole view. There are only two options. If Scripture must be interpreted according to its goal, then one must ask the question, “How do I find the goal.” If it is in Scripture, then I must interpret Scripture to find that goal, and at the same time interpret it according to that goal, which means that I must presuppose it. If I find the goal outside of Scripture, on the other hand, then I have an extra biblical authority over Scripture. There is no solution to this dilemma. Either way, my authority has become subjective.

At the same time, this view also destroys the unity of truth, as we have already intimated. Hubbard says, “Error theologically must mean that which leads us astray from the will of God or the knowledge of his truth.”

There is a definite discrepancy here between God’s truth, and other truth. If Jesus Christ is the Truth (John 14:6), and if God is the final absolute upon which all truth rests, the creator and sustainer, then surely all truth is his truth, and no truth is unimportant, or unrelated to any other truth. A scientist who discovers new truth about the universe is doing God’s will, as it was given to Adam. If we divide truth, we have lost our basis for rationality.

Obviously, as well, the intentionalists do not hold their view consistently. For example, Hubbard accused Lindsell of false statements about Fuller. But to do so, he had to revert to a correspondence view of truth. They use intention to interpret Scripture, but correspondence when criticizing.

At other times they use their theory well for their own convenience. Woodbridge says of Rogers and McKim, “The apologetic variety of history which Rogers and McKim write will make some professional historians wince.” Yet surely, manipulation of history is consistent with their view of truth. If it accomplishes its aim of persuading people to their view, it is true, whether it is correct or not, factually.

Another area of subjectivity in this view that should be mentioned is that it makes truth depend upon the receiver. It might be consistently argued, by intentionalism, that the Bible is true for such people as accept it, and false for such as refuse it.

There are two more methods of attempting to retain authority which we want to mention only briefly, and more study needs to be done into these two areas. The first is what I call “spiritualism.” We mentioned it once before in dealing with neo-orthodoxy. It is the view that the Holy Spirit enables us to discern between the truth and error of Scripture.

There is no doubt that illumination is a very important doctrine, and deserves far more attention than it gets. Packer says:

Bible commentaries, Bible classes, Bible lectures and courses, plus the church’s regular expository ministry, can give us fair certainty as to what scripture meant (and we should make full use of them to that end), but only through the Spirit’s illumination shall we be able to see how the teaching applies to us in our own situation.

But is it adequate to insure objective authority in the face of an errant Bible?

Hubbard thinks that it is. He says:

What proof did the prophets need to test whether God was speaking to them? Nothing but the power of that word itself. What proof did the Thessalonicans need that Paul’s gospel was true? Nothing but the conviction of God the Holy Spirit. What proof do we need to know whether the Bible is the Word of God? Nothing but the Spirit of God speaking to us in Scripture.

Actually, Hubbard’s examples are unfortunate, because although the prophets did not demand proof, God told the people not to believe them unless all that they said came to pass (Deut. 18:22), and Paul commended the Bereans, because they did not accept what he had to say without test, but being more noble than the Thessalonicans, they searched the Scripture to test the truth of Paul’s gospel. But Hubbard is not the only one who appeals to the Spirit.

Dr. Cremer was called upon to write the article “Inspiration” in the second edition of Herzog’s “realencyklopedia” (Vol. vi, sub. voc; pp. 745 seq.) which saw the light in 1880. In preparing this article he was led to take an entirely new view of the meaning of Qeopneustos, according to which it defines Scripture, in II Tim. iii. 16, not according to its origin, but according to its effect -- not as “inspired of God,” but as “inspiring its readers.”

Pinnock also seeks his authority in the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

I have come to place greater confidence in the power of the Spirit to make the Bible come alive for believers than I did before ... . Stress on the Spirit is noticeably lacking in the literature of inerrancy. I think it reveals a preoccupation with apologetic certainty....

If one is an errantist, then the only way to maintain authority is to assume that the Spirit enables us to differentiate between error and truth in Scripture. It is not enough to say that he helps us to understand it, for that does not deal with the problem. That the Spirit teaches us to understand it is the inerrantist position. There is no point in understanding error. Indeed, it cannot be understood, really, because error is unreasonable, and what is unreasonable cannot be understood.

The problem is, then, who’s witness of the Spirit is authoritative? Supposing two of us hold contradictory views as to what is error and what is true, both claiming the Spirit’s guidance. Unless you have something to test against, there is no reason for anybody to believe you before me. The authority is therefore subjective, and for that reason inadequate; it is inescapable.

The final attempt is that of direct revelation. This is at present uncommon among evangelicals, though it is the rule among cultists. But it is the next logical step from “spiritualism”; in fact, spiritualism is a disguised form of direct revelation. In spiritualism, the Spirit gives me direct revelation as to the true canon within the Bible. In direct revelation, I am not restricted to the Bible.

Pache says, ”Almost every heresy and sect has originated in a supposed revelation or a new experience on the part of its founder, something outside the strictly biblical framework.”

This is the ultimate result of acceptance of extra biblical and subjective authority. It is inadequate for precisely the same reasons as is spiritualism, so we will not bother to further refute it, but refer the reader back to that section.

 

To conclude our investigation of authority, let us note that without inerrancy, we have no adequate authority;

If it is finally settled that Scripture can err, then the church and its theologians will learn that no source and no standard remains to solve further doctrinal problems that may arise.

When we have no adequate authority, our doctrines have no secure base.

Where this [inerrancy] confession is not made, Scripture will not all be taken with all seriousness, elements of its teaching will inevitably be ignored, and the result, as Lindsell and Schaeffer with others correctly foresee, is bound to be a certain diminution of supernatural Christian faith -- as we have seen in the various versions of liberalism, neo-orthodoxy, and “biblical theology” and as we must now expect to see in new forms in tomorrow’s Roman Catholicism.

 

I am saying that whether it takes five years or fifty years any denomination or para-church group that forsakes inerrancy will end up shipwrecked. It is impossible to prevent the surrender of other important doctrinal teachings of the Word of God when Inerrancy is gone.

It may be argued by some that inerrancy does not provide any more adequate authority then does errancy.  Pinnock argues, with many others, that inerrancy is really not valid, since we all admit errors in our copies. Surely this argument can be seen through, since with the matter of the text we have variations, and we are quite aware what they are. Most of the text is quite certain.

The second argument is more difficult to refute; namely, that Scripture cannot be understood until it is interpreted, and that any interpretation will be subjective, since it will be colored by our background, education, etc. Now it may be true that interpretation has subjective elements in it, but it does not need to be wholly so. If language is valid, then much of Scripture will be obvious without much interpretation. The more precise the language, and the more objective it is, the less interpretation is involved. Also, we have something to test our interpretation against. We believe in the validity of reason. We recognize that man’s reason is fallen and so tainted. But though we may not be able, by reason, to understand infallibly, when the Holy Spirit points out inconsistency to us (error) in our interpretation, we can recognize it if we will. We have an objective base to argue from, whatever material we must deal with subjectively. We have an objective authority, infallible in all it touches, and therefore adequate.Inerrancy and. Authority

 

 

 

 

With all the talk of inerrancy, limited inerrancy, and various other  questions about the Bible today, it may sometimes be forgotten that what is actually at stake is the issue of authority. It is not a question of whether or not we have an authority. Montgomery, in writing about Romanism, says:

Surely some final authority must exist, and it would. appear that it now rests in the New Shape Roman theologian and. his community of like-minded. souls. There is thus more than irony in the definition of infallibility in Dominican Maurice Lelong’s “New Church Lexicon”: “The scandal of Vatican I. Infallibility can only be collective and. popular.” Inerrancy can no longer focus on one book or one man; it is now corporate and. democratic! Does this suggest the profound truth that no one ever dispenses with authority - one only relocates it?

Authority always exists. The question is, is my authority adequate? Where is it located?

I contend that, although any view of scripture allows for some kind of authority, without inerrancy there can be no adequate authority for the questions facing us.

This is not presented as a proof of inerrancy. It simply does not follow that because we need an adequate authority, therefore we must have it. If inerrancy of Scripture is false, my contention is that we do not have an adequate authority, and if we do not have an adequate authority, we will have to live without one - or we can commit suicide, and. if the Bible is errant, we have no authority great enough to tell us we must not do so.

In order to present my arguments clearly, it is important to the reader know where I am coming from. Many writers today do not begin by establishing their presuppositions, perhaps with the hope that the reader will think they don’t have any. But no one ever thinks without presuppositions, and for this reason, every argument is actually circular. The logical positivist, who claims to work inductively from primary information, still has to presuppose the validity of reason, or his senses.

Not only do all arguments carry presuppositions, but presuppositions are very difficult to refute, because before they can be falsified they must be given up. They cannot be proven or dis-proven.

That is not to say, however, that no argument can be persuasive. J. M. Frame brings this out clearly.

A “proof” of, say, the primacy of reason, can be highly persuasive and logically sound even though, at one level, circular. The circularity is rarely blatant; it lurks in the background.. One never says, “reason is true because reason says it is.” One says instead, “Reason is true because one must presuppose it even to deny it.” The second. argument is just as circular as the first. Both presuppose the validity of reason. But in the second argument the presupposition is implicit rather than explicit. And the second one is highly persuasive! The irrationalist cannot help but note that he is (in many cases) presenting his irrationalism in a highly rational way. He is trying to be more rational than the rationalist - a contradictory way to be! He must decide either to be a more consistent irrationalist (but note the paradox of that!) or to abandon his irrationalism. Of course, he might renounce consistency altogether, thus renouncing the presupposition of the argument. But the argument shows him vividly how hard it is to live without rationality. The argument is circular, but it draws some important facts to his attention. The argument is persuasive though circular because down deep in our hearts we know that we cannot live without reason.

 

Again he says:

A Christian Theist, while conceding that the argument for God’s existence is circular, nevertheless will claim that the argument is sound and persuasive, for he devoutly believes that his position is true, and he believes that it can be recognized clearly as such. He believes that God made man to think in terms of this circularity, rather than in terms of some competing circularity.”

While conceding that my arguments will be ultimately circular, and admitting my presuppositions right from the start, as I believe any honest writer ought to do, I still believe that the arguments presented will be reasonable and, hopefully, persuasive.

 

Basic presuppositions of this paper

 

Firstly, in this paper I am presupposing the validity of reason, or more specifically, the principle of non-contradiction. Actually, anyone who ever sits down to write, or even anyone who converses with anyone, has in practice presupposed. the validity of reason, for without reason, all communication is nonsense, and it is foolish to attempt it. It stands to reason that if my propositions can contradict reality, and if I can contradict myself, then in fact I will have communicated nothing to anyone; reason is therefore essential to communication.

Indeed, one cannot even do away with reason unreasonably. To deny reason, one must first assume it, as Frame pointed out above.

Secondly, I am presupposing the validity of language as a means of expressing truth.

There is a contemporary view of language that claims that language is incapable of conveying truth about God. Indeed, some linguists go so far as to say that language cannot be true at all, because of the discrepancy between the word and the object. But there is an immediate problem with this proposition. If we say, “Language cannot convey truth,” then we must ask, is that a true statement? If it is a true statement, then it is false, for it has just done what it said could not be done. And if it is false, on the other hand, then it is eliminated.

So language can convey truth; if it could not people would not talk, because it would be practically meaningless to do so. But what about God-talk? Is that, perhaps meaningless?

David Hume, the skeptical empiricist, was convinced that God-talk is non-sense. Geisler writes concerning his principle,

According to this principle, a statement, to be meaningful, must either be true by definition, (such as “all triangles have three sides”) or else it must be verifiable by one or more of the five senses. The principle, of course, proved to be too narrow (since it eliminated even some scientific statements) and had to be revised. But the conclusion reached by Ayer and other semantical atheists after him is still with us, namely that all God-talk is meaningless.”

 

This is also the basic idea of the logical positivist. But how do we answer it? It is true that much God’-talk cannot be verified, or falsified, by the senses. Is it therefore meaningless?

We must realize that God-talk is a language of presupposition. And as we said before, presupposition resists falsification. Indeed, the presuppositions of the logical positivist (the validity of logic, and the senses) cannot be empirically tested, and. so are non-sense by their own standard!

Obviously, God-talk is valid when viewed in that light. In fact, the idea that language is useless is based on the presupposition that language evolved. We presuppose, rather, that language was given to man by God, and is therefore meaningful. It cannot convey all there is to know about God, but it can express something about God validly and truthfully.

Even though the argument of this paper is not based on inerrancy, there can be no question that it is a presupposition that will color the content of the paper, and so I include it as my third presupposition. Some may feel that this is not truly a presupposition, since it seems to be arguable without circularity, but in reality it is not. Let us follow the argument closely. Warfield gives the basis of the doctrine clearly.

We believe this doctrine of the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures primarily because it is the doctrine which Christ and his apostles believed, and which they have taught to us. It may sometimes seem difficult to take our stand frankly by the side of Christ and his apostles. It will always be found safe.

In the same vein, Montgomery says, “Logically, if the Bible is not inerrant, though Jesus thought it was, He can hardly be the incarnate God He claimed to be and for whom the same claims are made by his apostles.”

I believe that the evidence from Scripture that Christ did believe in inerrancy has been adequately given by other writers, but we may cite, for example, Matt. 5:18, and Luke 14:17, or Matt. 22:43, demonstrating that Christ argued the very words of the Psalm. But one might say, “You are taking your evidence that Christ believed in inerrancy of Scripture from Scripture, and must therefore presuppose it’s inerrancy, since if it is not inerrant, then it may be in error at the points of Christ’s view of Scripture.” I must respond, that is correct. Thus, inerrancy is a presupposition, howbeit, I believe, a valid one.

Finally, a point that is more of a clarification than a presupposition. We must differentiate between a system of hermeneutics, and a statement regarding the nature of Scripture. Some, for example, have argued against inerrancy, saying that the Bible does not speak with scientific accuracy, i.e. that it often rounds numbers, etc. Now, that may be a sound principle of interpretation, or it may not, but it has nothing to say about whether the Bible is inerrant or not. In fact, it more supports inerrancy than otherwise. Inerrancy is a presupposition which hermeneutics must take into account. Parker expresses this very lucidly in his article, Encountering Present-day views of Scripture.

Though the confession of inerrancy does not help us to make the literary judgments that interpretation involves, it commits us in advance to harmonize and integrate all that we find Scripture teaching, without remainder, and so makes possible a theological grasp of Christianity that is altogether believing and altogether obedient.

There are other presuppositions that it might be useful to the reader to know, but I think most would be summed up adequately by saying that I hold a Theistic World View.

As to the scope of this paper, I am not attempting to defend the doctrine of inerrancy, or even of inspiration. I am only seeking to establish my thesis. I shall begin with a short historical analysis of the concept of truth, and show how views of truth have changed through the past centuries. I will then seek to give a method of building a view of truth, and for testing such views. I will show how the modern views of truth are inadequate, and. why the classic view of truth did not satisfy.

All this is to lay the groundwork for a discussion of authority, because authority is ultimately based on truth. I will describe two kinds of authority, showing the adequacy of one, and the inadequacy of the other.

I will then give the major views of Scripture that various errantists have used in an attempt to preserve an adequate authority for Scripture, and I will show why they cannot do so. In conclusion, I will show how inerrancy does provide an adequate authority.

 

I. A short historical analysis of the concept of truth

The classic view of truth is two-fold. First, truth cannot be contradictory (i.e. A cannot at the same time be non-A), and second, it must correspond with reality. This idea of truth assures two things. First, it assures that truth is a unity, for if a truth cannot be contradictory and still be true, then it follows that a truth from the realm of, say, physics cannot contradict a truth from the realm of biology, or one of them is not true. Or, a truth from the realm of history cannot contradict a truth from the realm of theology, or nature, and so on. So if the law of non-contradiction is valid, then there must be a unity to truth, and if the unifying factor can be discovered, all truth can be correlated.

Secondly, it assures that truth will be objective, for it must correspond to reality. That does not, of course, mean that every real proposition is true. A proposition may be a real proposition and yet not be in line with reality (i.e. a lie). Thus, a true proposition about a proposition that does not line up with reality is “that is a lie,” because that lines up with the reality of the falsity of the first proposition.

Neither does this do away with the validity of subjective or relative truth, because both are actually objective assessments of limited or comparative facts. For example, if a person says, “Spinach is good,” that subjective statement may be objectively true as it pertains to that person if in fact he really likes spinach, or thinks that spinach is good even if he does not like it. If so, it is a valid subjective truth, and it is also objectively true as regards that person.

The classical pagan philosophers were unable to correlate all truth, because they lacked. the unifying factor, i.e. the theistic God. The apostles possessed the unifying factor, and were able to build a valid epistemology that could account for both general principles and particular incidents. But with Thomas Aquinas that began to change. He believed that there was some good in the human intellect, that it was not totally depraved.

Bacon followed his lead. Geisler says of him,

After tearing down the “idols” of the old deductive method of discovering truth, Bacon argued that “the best demonstration by far is experience.” The inductive method, he said, is the true way to interpret nature. One can understand how Bacon could consider inductive logic a valid method for scientific inquiry, but he went far beyond reasonable bounds when he claimed universal applicability for his method.

This means that every general principle had to be derived from experience-able details. The fact that he was assuming a general principle a priori (i.e. that reason is capable of interpreting man’s experiences) did not seem to occur to him.

But what would he do with God? For God could not be discovered inductively. Again from Geisler:

For Bacon and even more clearly for Hobbes who followed him, the Bible serves a religious and evocative function -- it leads us to honor and obey God but does not make cognitive truth claims about God nor affirmations about the physical universe.

What Bacon and Hobbes had done, whether or not they realized it, was to deny either non-contradiction or else the truth of theology. Thus they set the groundwork for the destruction of the unity of truth. For Hobbes, religion is absurd, and must be accepted by blind faith. But why accept it if it is not true? And if it is true, you have two kinds of truth that are contradictory! Unity is destroyed, and essentially, non-contradiction is destroyed.

Immanuel Kant also contributed to the loss of unity. He was an agnostic, and taught that we cannot know, only perceive. We can know the “thing-to-me,” (phenomenal) but not the “thing-in-itself” (noumenal). This gulf is impassible by the nature of knowing (i.e. as Bacon taught it). Although he did not deny objective truth, he said we cannot know it. Facts have nothing to do with values, because facts are what we perceive, values are what are real. So perceptions, in his thinking, are objective, realities subjective.

Kierkegaard followed Kant, also making a fact/value dichotomy, but distinguishing between the factual or propositional and. the personal. The two were unrelated. God is beyond proof, the doctrines of God and of inspiration are unfalsifiable, because totally divorced from reason. God then becomes practically subjective. He can only be known by faith, whereas facts are known by reason. So we have the same dichotomy between theological Truth and. natural truth.

It is interesting that Rogers and McKim attribute this same dichotomy to Calvin:

Calvin did not wish to substitute theology for philosophy. Each had. its own appropriate realm -- theology for matters of salvation and the life of faith, and philosophy for matters of worldly wisdom and practice.

It is hard to conceive of Calvin as a modern man!

The third stage is a move to irrationality. Following Bacon’s lead, and moving from specifics to universals, man finally realized that he had to give up the rationality of faith, and theology, but not only that. Everything had to be irrational. Why? Because ideally all facts must be related to a system to be intelligib1e. But man found that facts are so varied that he could not find a system that would cover all of them. He despaired of ever doing so, and concluded that all facts are irrational and unrelated. Rationality is purely a subjective, pragmatic way of looking at things. It must be subjective, because (following Kant) I am the only person that I know exists. I perceive everyone else, and that means they are phenomenal and unknowable. And it must be pragmatic because “If factuality is non-rational, it is expected that rationality will be merely ‘practical’.” It is clear that we cannot live without reason, but if it is unreal, then it must be some make-believe practical system that we adopt to give ourselves security.

Not only does truth become subjective under irrationality, but the way is opened for humanism as well. If my own existence is the only thing I can be sure of, then I must make myself the ultimate reference point for interpreting my perceptions. As Van Til says,

That issue may be stated simply and comprehensively by saying that in the Christian view of things it is the self-contained God who is the final point of reference, while in the case of the modern view it is the would-be self-contained man who is the final point of reference in all interpretation.”

We will see later on what this does to authority.

 

II. An adequate test for systems of truth

If we are ever to arrive at some idea of what truth is, we must have a test by which we evaluate each view of truth.

The first thing we must not do is formulate a test that will, by definition, rule out any view of truth but what we want truth to be. For example, Hume argued against miracles by defining a miracle as something that never happens. If we accept that definition, then of course there are no miracles in reality, because as soon as something happens it is not a miracle, by the definition. Such an argument is not valid. It is a misuse of language.

An adequate view of truth must be able to account for everything; every fact, every observation, every feeling, every illusion. There must be nothing in the universe that is not covered by the system. The only alternative is to give up rationality, and we have shown in the introduction how difficult that is. We should not give it up until we have tried every possibility.

But how can we go about building a system of truth that will cover everything? I would like to suggest that we search for truth in the same way that the legendary Sherlock Holmes sought for criminals.

In the first place, we must not pretend to think without presuppositions. If we think we do, we are deceiving ourselves, and a self-deceived person will never arrive at truth. In fact, our system of truth, ultimately, is our presupposition. So what we really have to test are our presuppositions.

Secondly, we must not limit ourselves to any one way of thinking. Some thinkers have tried to reason from pure deduction, but have not been able to deduce all that is. Others, like Bacon, have tried to reason from induction only, but have not been able to put all their facts into any one system. But is it inconceivable that both methods of thinking could be used together? It ought to be attempted.

Thirdly, one must not rule out, a priori, any system of truth simply because it carries obligations with it, or would demand change of us. That is dishonesty.

How did Holmes operate? He took the facts that he had, and from them induced. several general theories. From these theories he deduced further facts that ought to exist if the theory were correct. Then he would begin to look for those facts. If they did not, in reality, exist, he tried a different theory, and tested it in the same way. At the same time, again inducing, if he discovered a fact that did not fit the theory, he altered or expanded the theory, or else dropped it, and continued on from there.

If we apply this method to modern systems of thought, we are faced with some grave difficulties. Both irrationality and subjectivism are out of line with our minds -- and our minds are part of what is there. Neither one can account for it. We find it impossible to think in a totally irrational manner. Both leave us with subjective truth, and. yet we cannot live with that either, for we are forever trying to persuade other people to think like we do, or at least thinking that they are wrong in the way they think. But if truth is subjective, then nobody is wrong, and. if that were true, we would not think that they are wrong. We are contradicting our presuppositions to suppose so.

Let us postulate a pantheistic world view. Can it account for all that is? Well, it says that all is unity. But is that all there is? Don’t we experience diversity? Ah, yes, but that appearance of diversity is illusion. But surely the illusion is something different from the reality? For if illusion and reality were the same thing, we would never know the difference. Pantheism cannot account for all there is.

Perhaps the universe is all chance. Will that explain all there is? From that premise, we would naturally expect the universe to be random. There is, in that view, no real cause and effect. Why should chance move in an orderly way? We never experience it so. But the world seems to be orderly, not random. And if all is chance, the universe should be impersonal. But that does not account for man, who at least appears to be personal. And if all is chance, why don’t we live that way? Why are we careful what we eat, what we do, etc? For if all is chance, then when I jump off a bridge, I never know if I will fall or not. Chance cannot account for all that is.

Perhaps someone would argue that the classic view of truth as objective and unified has not been able to explain all there is either. We would reply that those who did not find it adequate built it on too narrow a foundation. It can account for all there is, if one admits the possibility of a theistic God.

Working from the general hypothesis of a theistic God, one would expect order in the universe. And in fact, the universe seems to be orderly. One would expect some evidence of personality, and man seems to be personal. A correlation between man and his environment would be expected, and we find such a correlation. We would expect man to have a moral sensibility, and he does. We would. expect a correlation between man’s thoughts, and the place in which he lives, and man does tend to think in terms of correspondence.

We could go on and on. It is granted that an adequate application of this method is beyond the power of the pen, but it is also believed that if anyone will look honestly at the issue, he will see that as there are only a limited number of possibilities, and only one will account for all that is, it must be correct. And if it is, then we have preserved rationality -- unity and objectivity.

 

III. The question of authority

The next question confronting us is, what about authority? What is it? What constitutes an adequate authority?

The dictionary gives several definitions of the word. For example, “A citation (as from a book) used in defense or support of ones actions, opinions, or beliefs,” or “power to require and receive submission: the right to expect obedience.”

Both carry with them the idea of a control of actions and beliefs. Authority is the reason behind what I do and think. Authority is the “ought” of life. Perhaps authority is not necessary, in the ultimate sense of the word, but none the less, “no one ever dispenses with authority, one only relocates it.” Every man attempts always to show reasons why he is right, or why he did what he did, and if he does not, it is because he considers himself the ultimate authority.

J.I. Packer comments that “only truth can have final authority to determine belief and behavior.” The idea is that the “ought” says that I must bring my beliefs and behavior into line with what is true.

But why should I believe what is true? What is wrong with believing something that is false? To many, this question may seem absurd. Of course, it is stupid to deliberately believe a falsehood. But it is a legitimate question none the less. So again I ask, why? Because it is necessary for survival. I will not live long, physically if I refuse to live according to the physical reality of the universe. But even more important, I will not survive spiritually without living in harmony with the spiritual reality of the universe.

Not only does authority involve the demand that we line up with truth, it also involves how we discover truth. Everything we believe we believe on authority. We accept on authority that Julius Caesar was a Roman Emperor. Our authority is history, or more correctly, historians. Our authority for believing something may be another person, or a book, or our own senses, or our own reason. But we always believe by assuming the authority of our source of knowledge. We cannot know without authority.

 

Finally, authority must be as general as the class to which it refers. For example, human beings are all a part of the material universe. Therefore the realities of matter have authority over all mankind. Every man, to survive, must live in line with material reality. No one is exempt from the authority of the reality of gravity. Every unsupported body within the gravitational dominance of the earth falls toward the earth.

So a man needs two things; his authority must be able to tell him what reality is, and also how to live in harmony with the reality.

Authority is based on truth. Therefore since we have two basic concepts of truth, we have also two ideas of authority.

If, as many claim, truth is subjective, then authority is also subjective. The idea of subjective truth is based on the assumption that all that is real is in the subject. The material universe may not be real, nor other people either. All that I know is real is myself. Subjective authority says that the only reality I must line up with is myself, and that I myself can be trusted as the source of truth regarding myself. Now, if in fact reality only involves myself, then subjective authority is adequate. But if reality can apply to things other than myself, such authority is not adequate, because it does not account for all of reality. In fact, truth is not subjective, and this is illustrated by the fact that not even the subjectivists live as though it were. If they do, they don’t live. Even a subjectivist will get out of the way of a Mack truck, if he sees it. Why? Because he recognizes and submits to the objective authority of the laws of motion. Objective authority is adequate, for it accounts for the Mack truck. Subjective authority is not adequate, and the subject knows it.

Some would say that we need objective authority in the material realm, but that subjective authority is adequate in the spiritual realm.

More than a century ago, he [Schleiermacher] taught that the true source of theology was not the Bible but man’s religious consciousness. Thus the objective revelation of God in the Bible was set aside, and man’s subjective opinions were exalted to the position of authority.

Again, the only possible way to hold this is to assume that man is the only spiritual reality in the universe. If there is a God who is real, subjective authority cannot account for him.

It may be argued that objective authority is not adequate either, because it demands that I be in harmony with all of reality, and I cannot know all of reality. By this argument, I should not be surviving. This objection is invalid on two counts. Not all of reality is applicable to me directly and at all times. If there are no elephants where I live, then truths about elephants may not be applicable to me at present. Secondly, it does not take the theistic God into account. If he is the creator, then we can expect him to be in harmony with all of reality. And therefore, if we are in harmony with him, we will be in harmony with all of reality. That does not mean that we approve of all reality. The way to be in harmony with the reality of sin, for example, is to hate it, and expect it to be judged, finally.

In summary, subjective authority is not adequate, because it takes myself only into account. If there is any reality there, besides myself, subjective authority cannot account for it, and any attempt to do so is no more authoritative than anyone elses' attempt.

Objective authority, on the other hand, is adequate if the source is dependable and knowledgeable. Keep in mind that a source may be dependable and knowledgeable in a limited sphere, and so be adequate authority in that limited sphere, but remain an inadequate authority in a broader sphere. For example, our senses are a reliable source of objective authority, in a limited. sphere (the material) and when their frailties are taken into account (i.e. one must be tested against the other, for our senses may be deceiving; and their limits must be recognized). That the senses are a relatively objective authority is seen in the fact that by following them we manage to survive, whereas when they are impaired (i.e. as through alcohol consumption), non-survival increases. But our senses, on the other hand , are not an adequate objective authority for direct spiritual awareness.

 

 

IV. The search for authority in errancy

 

There are perhaps two main reasons why many evangelicals have repudiated the inerrancy of Scripture. The first is because of apparent internal contradictions. They believe that there are things in Scripture that do not harmonize; such as various dates, etc. The second reason is that they believe there are things in Scriptures that contradict the findings of science. Berkouwer tacitly admits this, when he says, “This has gone hand in hand with an increasing revulsion against ‘harmonism’ and ‘concordism’ phenomena which all too often advance a view of Scripture that demands too much of it.”

Stephen Davis says that the Bible should be authoritative for every Christian on all that it says on any subject until he comes across something which he judges that he, for good reasons, cannot accept.

What the errantists may not realize is that they had to shift their authority before they could assert that there are any errors in the Bible. If scripture is our absolute authority, then what contradicts it must be wrong, and contradictions within it must be apparent, and should be possible to harmonize with proper hermeneutics and further light. Only if I, a priori, admit that there are other authorities at least equal to Scripture, can I admit to errors in Scripture. This attitude toward Scripture is not in the least a necessary one. Better scholarship is constantly reducing the internal conflicts in Scripture, and science is a very unstable pillar to build one’s authority upon. It is continually changing its dogmas. For example, Scripture was once scoffed at for talking about the sun rising, (though every scientist, in everyday language, speaks of the sunrise and sunset). But now, with the advent of relativity, scientist say that it really doesn’t matter whether you speak of the sun going around the earth, or the earth around the sun; it all depends on your frame of reference, anyway. We have no way of knowing for sure which way it is. So old concepts of science are shown to be out of date, and if the Bible is allowed to change by every whim of science, it may be false today and true tomorrow.

Errantists have recognized that with their view of inspiration, Biblical authority was placed on a flimsy foundation, and have proposed a variety of theories to maintain the authority of an errant Scripture. But none of them are adequate to do so, as we shall see in the remainder of this paper.

In these systems there is bound to be overlap, as they all have some things in common, and a few things are common to all. This should be kept in mind as we proceed.

The first theory that we will examine is the theory of accommodation, or adaptation.

The basic idea of this theory is that God accommodated himself to humanity in the Scriptures in order to make them comprehensible to man, and in so doing, had to incorporate errors. It is often likened to a little child who’s father talks to him in a truncated language, accommodating himself to the child’s vocabulary and understanding. Pinnock uses this argument, claiming that it is not necessary for the Bible to be inerrant just because it is inspired, because God uses fallible human beings all the time to proclaim his word, and he accomplishes his purpose by it.

There are several assumptions of this view that should be pointed out. First, that the Bible errs because it presents things as they appear, rather than as they are. Second, the idea that if God accommodates himself to human language, he must err, because humans err. Thirdly, the idea that because the Bible emphasizes certain things, it may err in what it dots not emphasize. And finally, because it is written by men, it must err, because men err.

This view is often taken further, to say that God not only accommodated himself to human language, but to the Hebrew thought forms and to the contemporary culture as well.

An integral and practical part of the theory of accommodation is the separation of the “human” and “divine” elements of Scripture. Pinnock says, “Although Protestant orthodoxy confesses both the divine and the human element in the Bible, as it also does in Christology, it has been happier affirming its divine authority than admitting its human characteristics.” He says further, “The prime theological issue which became evident in our survey of options on biblical authority is the need to maintain with equal force both the humanity and the divinity of the word of Scripture.”

The idea of this dichotomy is that the Bible is the writing of men, written with their own peculiar literary style, their own backgrounds, viewpoints, world views, education, and so on as a foundation for that writing. It is contended that they must have erred, since their world view would be as erroneous as their contemporaries’.

 

In fact, there is a legitimate idea of accommodation. God did condescend to speak in human language. There is no other way for him to make himself intelligible to man. But it does not follow that language therefore must err, in that it is human. A father, in accommodating himself to a small child, does not necessarily misinform him, simply because he is speaking a child language. Although he may not be able to give comprehensive truth, in the sense of saying all that could be said, due to the child’s limited understanding, what he says can still be precise. Neither is strict precision always necessary, and when it is not needed lack of it is not a fault. I may, in everyday conversation, speak of the “five mile corner.” That is adequate and true, for in normal usage, nobody would expect me to say “five miles, three feet, four point zero zero one six three inches.” It would not mean anything to anyone anyway. Rounding is an accepted language procedure.

Young demonstrates that within the context of a Biblical view of truth there is room for crudity and roughness of literary style, including improper grammatical structure, variations of parallel accounts of events, discourses, etc. but not room for contradiction or deception. Phenomenological, anthropomorphic, hyperbolic, etc. forms of language do not negate or falsify truth.

Human language may err, but it does not necessarily do so. As to God accommodating himself to Hebrew thought forms, there is, of course, a nucleus of truth here. The Old Testament is written in Hebrew, in Hebrew style, and reflecting Hebrew thought. But although a language does reflect the thought forms of a culture, it is not bound to them. James Barr argues that it is an unsound linguistic procedure to make the supposed thought structure of a language group dictate the possible meanings of the words in that language. Although the language may reflect the thought patterns of a group, it can express truths not dominant in the particular thought pattern. It is true that to interpret correctly, we must be aware of such things, but that is hermeneutics. It does not follow that the Bible errs.

Again, it is argued that Scripture adapts to and reflects human culture, and. so must err. To put it more clearly, the Bible can be discounted where it touches on culture, because it was only reflecting the culture of the day, and that culture is not necessarily right. Of this idea Warfield says:

The fact is that the theory of ‘accommodation’ is presented by Mr. Stuart only to enable him the more easily to refuse to be bound by the apostolic teaching in this matter, and as such it has served him as a stepping stone by which he has attained to an even more drastic principle, on which he practically acts: that wherever the apostle can be shown to agree with their contemporaries, their teaching may be neglected.

It obviously does not follow that agreement with contemporaries indicates error, especially as it may be noticed that on many points the Bible counters current culture.

Perhaps the overall argument here is that the Bible, as a human book, must be subject to error, but that in it’s divine aspect, it is authoritative. This may sound reasonable, but three things need to be realized. First, because it is a human book, it does not necessarily err. Christ was human, and yet did not err. This we must hold to, for “had he been mistaken... the church could well ask whether any single teaching of Jesus on any subject (including the way of salvation) might not also reflect his sincere misunderstanding.” To postulate that Jesus erred is to destroy his authority. Secondly, if the Bible errs because it is human, the Holy Spirit, as supervisor of the work, must still be held responsible for all errors. Let us imagine an executive secretary, who’s boss instructs her to write a letter, giving such and such information, and when it is finished, to bring it to him for his signature. She writes the letter, couching it in her own style, her own vocabulary, and so on. She brings it to the boss, he reads it and signs it. When he puts his signature on it, he is endorsing all it contains. If there are errors in it, he was responsible to catch them and have them corrected before he signed it. He is responsible. In the same sense, the Holy Spirit “signed” the Scriptures. He is responsible for every error. But, though it might have been error through ignorance on the part of the human author, on the part of the Holy Spirit, it is a lie, for he is not ignorant. If the Holy Spirit lies, his authority is destroyed. He cannot be trusted.

Finally, if the Bible is Human and Divine, and the human element admits errors, who or what determines what the errors are, and what is not error? Perhaps it would be advocated that Scripture itself witnesses to the difference. But what principle of Scripture would indicate how to tell its errors from truth? And should we find such a principle, what is to guarantee that the principle itself is not part of the errant matter, and so invalid?

Perhaps we will allow science, in the broadest sense of that term, to determine what is error and what is not. But in that case, science, not the Bible, has become my final authority; and besides, science, or at least scientists, are not infallible. How do I know that they are not in error regarding which parts of Scripture err? Is the authority of fallible scientists adequate for spiritual matters? Will I place my soul’s eternal destiny in their hands? Perhaps you would say that we must use our own judgment as to where science, or the Scripture errs. But now, I am become my own authority. Where do I get my guidelines for discernment? I cannot get them from Scripture; that is what needs discerning. I am left with a subjective authority, and we have already seen that such an authority is totally inadequate,

The concept of accommodation as the errantist present it leaves us without an adequate authority. In the final analysis, it leaves me alone with myself. I cannot know for sure, the validity of anything outside myself.

Before discussing the “limited inerrancy” view, I want to deal briefly with a concept proposed by Berkouwer, that is closely allied with accommodation. It is the idea of “time-boundedness.”

Moreover, the Word finds its way through periods having their own social structures and “cultural patterns” -- customs and concepts relative to the particular period. The Word of God does not remain aloof from this, but is heard in the midst of it. As a result, the time-boundedness of certain admonitions and prohibitions is clear to all. Various statements by Paul regarding womanhood and marriage constitute some of the most discussed illustrations of this particular problem of time-boundness.

The obvious idea is that because the Word is “time-bound” it cannot give objective truth in regards to such things as womanhood. Scripture reflected, not God’s mind, but the mind of the men of the day, in certain things. He gives a further example of this argument.

One should also mention Paul’s ‘argument’ that man was not made from women, but woman from man, and that man is now born of woman (I Cor. 18:8-12). It is evident that one cannot make an inch of progress by speaking of the “correctness” of such words in the abstract.

The implication of what he is saying is clear. Creation is an out-modded, “time-bound” concept (of course God didn’t really make Eve from Adam’s rib. That is only a story, a legend of the Hebrews), and so we don’t believe it. Because Paul’s argument is based on this “time-bound” concept, then it is also time-bound, and we don’t believe it either. But the upshot of it all is, that I can refuse anything in Scripture on that basis, for all of it was written more than one thousand years ago. Who is to determine what has been affected by time, and what has not? Ultimately, I must determine that for myself, according to what seems reasonable to me, and that means that my authority is again subjective. But a subjective authority is not adequate for objective truth.

Berkouwer claims that Paul himself supports the “time-boundedness” idea.

Besides, we note how Paul himself gives an indication of this situation and time-boundedness He emphatically answers questions which have been sent to him (I Cor. 7:1), and he considers something to be right “in view of the impending distress” (I Cor. 7:26).

Actually, this argues against the concept, for the fact that Paul goes out of his way to express the “time-boundedness” of this situation indicates that other situations are not time-bound, else why make a special case of this one?

The second theory that we want to discuss, and perhaps the most popular, is the “limited inerrancy” theory. Benedict Spinoza taught the basic tenant of this view -- that the Bible is authoritative in religious matters only. He carried it further perhaps then modern day evangelicals would, for he said that the Bible has nothing to say to reason; science is for the intellect, religion is for the will. Perhaps he was more consistent than some of his modern counterparts.

Francis Schaeffer explains this view as follows:

The issue is whether the Bible gives propositional truth (that is, truth that may be stated in propositions) where it touches history and the cosmos, and this all the way back to the first eleven chapters of Genesis, or whether instead of that it is only meaningful where it touches that which is considered religious.

 

Harold Lindsell says it this way: “The sum of it is this: Whatever has to do with the gospel in the Bible is inspired and can be trusted; whatever does not have to do with the gospel has errors in it -- it is not inerrant.”

And Geisler quotes Davis: “Davis says, ‘there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible,’ and adds, ‘I have found none on matters of faith and practice.

It is a simple enough theory on the surface, and it looks as if it might do the job of providing an adequate authority without total inerrancy. But if we examine it closely, we find that it has serious problems.

The first serious difficulty is that we must open up the question of canonicity, at least in a practical way. Unless God inspires error, then what is erroneous is not inspired. Even if it is, it cannot stand on the same level as that which is inerrant. Gerstner points out:

We realize that some who disagree with inerrancy are claiming inspiration for parts of the Bible, the so-called salvation parts. Very well, but then they cannot title their position biblical authority but only partial biblical authority. To add insult to injury to God’s Word, they cannot tell precisely what parts of the Bible are inspired. They say “salvation parts,” but they do not tell us where to find these or how to separate them from the uninspired, errant, non-salvation parts.

In his evaluation of Rogers and McKim’s proposals, Woodbridge comments,

The author’s description of the Bible creates for them the same kind of dilemma that neo-orthodox scholars before them faced: how to distinguish the infallible “central saving message” from the errant “difficult surrounding material.” This is a critical problem because Christianity is grounded in the dirt and dust of human history. Salvation truths are planted in the Bible’s historical discourse about things that happened.

Further, R.C. Sproul says,

Evangelical advocates of limited inerrancy are not expected to embrace Bultmann’s mythical view of New Testament super-naturalism. But their method has no inherent safeguard from an arbitrary delimitation of the scope of the biblical canon.

This is a very serious problem, and the answers that are given only raise more problems, as we shall see.

The second major problem is the old problem of unity of truth. The point is that if truth is a unity, then it is all interrelated, and if I believe error in one field of truth, it will affect my beliefs in all areas. Montgomery puts it this ways:

Regardless of how carefully the view point is stated, it necessarily involves a dualism between what is infallibly reliable in the Bible and what is not;... Not only does the Bible itself offer a monistic philosophy, of knowledge, but this viewpoint is necessitated by the very nature of the fields of knowledge themselves. Only the naive specialist really believes that science is qualitatively different from geography, or geography from history, or history from ethics, or ethics from theology.

This point cannot be given up without ultimately giving up rationality. If there is no integral relation between the fields of truth, then truth is not a unity. Jesus made this point, by arguing moral principles on scientific fact.

In short, we cannot separate science and Scripture. When the Bible declares that Jesus was born of a virgin, then it affirms a biological truth as well as a spiritual one. And when Jesus answered the question about divorce by saying, “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the creator ‘made them male and female’” (Matt. 19:4), He not only laid down a moral principle but made a scientific pronouncement as well. The scientific cannot be separated from the spiritual without doing violence to the spiritual.

Montgomery supports this idea when he says,

“Kenotic” (limitation) theories will not solve this dilemma. A meaningful incarnation demands an incarnate God who knows what He is doing -- on earth as it is in heaven -- and tells the truth -- on earth as it is in heaven. This is precisely the Jesus of Gospel accounts: the One who knows that He existed before Abraham, who condemns lying as a mark of the devil, and who so unites reliability in secular” matters with “theological” reliability that He can say to Nicodemus (and to us), “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believed not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things.

This last point of Jesus to Nicodemus would seem to clinch the argument, except that if you believe in errancy, then Jesus may have been in error when he said it.

We must agree with Montgomery when he says further,

The point does not require belaboring~ For practical purposes we may -- perhaps we must -- distinguish between “historical ,“ “geographical,” and “theological” statements in Holy Writ; but these distinctions are no more inherent to reality than the divisions between hand and wrist or trunk and branches. It is thus logically impossible to argue for an alleged perfection resident “spiritually” in Scripture while admitting imperfections in Scriptural knowledge viewed from a “secular” standpoint. Fallibility in the latter necessitates fallibility in the former --and this leaves one incapable of affirming a single doctrinal or moral teaching of the Bible with finality.

Is it any wonder then that those, such as the Roman Catholic exegete Loisy, beginning with “relative inerrancy” (the Bible erroneous only in matters of science and history) and pursuing vigorously the implications of this viewpoint, ultimately conclude “that the principle of relative truth is in fact of universal application”? 

It should be obvious that if we do away with the unity of truth, we are left with a subjective authority; for if truths can contradict, I am left to choose between the contradictory truths. As Sproul says, “How do we escape dehistoricizing the gospel and relegating it to a level of supra-temporal existential ‘decision’?”

It cannot be done, and we are without an adequate authority.

The third serious problem of the limited inerrancy view is that it places the inerrant material in the Bible outside of any test --it cannot be verified or falsified -- and faith becomes blind; a leap in the dark. R.C. Sproul says of this problem,

To those critics outside the fellowship of evangelicals, the notion of “limited inerrancy” appears artificial and contrived. Limited inerrancy gets us off the apologetical hook by making us immune to religious-historical criticism. We can eat our cake and have it too. The gospel is preserved; and our faith and practice remains intact while we admit errors in matters of history and cosmology. We cannot believe the Bible concerning earthly things, but we stake our lives on what it says concerning heavenly things. That approach was totally abrogated by our Lord (John 3:12).

How do we explain and defend the idea that the Bible is divinely superintended in part of its content but not all of it? Which part is inspired? Why only the faith and practice parts? Again, which are the faith and practice parts? Can we not justly be accused of “weaseling” if we adopt such a view? We remove our faith from the arena of historical verification or falsification. This is a fatal blow for apologetics as the reasoned defense of Christianity.

To do this makes experience the only test of truth in the religious realm. And if we do this, what have we left? This move was foreseen by T.H. Huxley, as Schaeffer points out:

T.H. Huxley, the biologist, the friend of Darwin, the grandfather of Aldous and Julian Huxley, wrote in 1890 that he visualized the day not far hence in which faith would be separated from all fact, and especially all pre-Abrahamic history, and that faith would then go on triumphant forever. This is an amazing quote for 1890 before the birth of existential philosophy or existential theology. He indeed foresaw something clearly. I am sure that he and his friends considered this some kind of a joke, because they would have understood well that if faith is separated from fact and specifically pre-Abrahamic space-time history, it is only another form of what we today call a trip.

 

Schaeffer goes on to say:

 

What I quoted in chapter one from T.H. Huxley applies at specifically this place. J.S. Bezzant, an old-fashioned liberal at Cambridge University, in Objections to Christian Belief also puts his finger on the problem of those who separate the portions of Genesis, and the Bible as a whole, that speak of history and the cosmos from those that speak of religious matters. In general, Bezzant speaks against historic Christianity itself, but suddenly he swings around and speaks to neo-orthodoxy. And he says this: “When I am told that it is precisely its immunity from proof which secures the Christian proclamation from the charge of being mythological I reply that immunity from proof can ‘secure’ nothing whatever except immunity from proof, and call nonsense by its name.” The neo-orthodox position is that the Bible makes mistakes in the areas of history and science, but we are to believe it anyway in the religious areas. The result is that religious things simply become “truth” inside one’s head -- just as the drug experience or the Eastern religious experience is “truth” inside of one’s head.

The moment I make truth untestable, it becomes empirical, and it is therefore subjective. If I argue from experience, how can I refute someone elses' experience, which may be different from mine? If Christianity can be said to be true on the basis of experience, then so can Buddhism — for Buddhists also have experience. We have only a subjective authority, and that is not adequate.

It is interesting to note that God gave his people an objective, factual test by which to check the authority of all prophets (Deut. 18:22), and Paul based the truth of Christianity squarely on the historical fact of the resurrection (I Cor. 15:17).

The fourth serious difficulty is closely related to the first. It is simply this. How do I determine what is religious truth and what is not? Lindsell very clearly states the problem.

Once limited inerrancy is accepted, it places the Bible in the same category with every other book that has ever been written. Every book contains in it some things that are true. And what is true is inerrant. Only two things remain to be determined, once this position is acknowledged. The first is what proportion of the book is true and what proportion is false. It may be 90% false and 10% true; or it may be 90% true and 10% false. The second thing that needs to be determined is what parts of the book are true. Since the book contains both truth and falsehood, of necessity, other criteria outside of the book must be brought to bear upon it to determine what is false and what is true. Whatever the source of the other criteria, that becomes the judge of the book in question. Thus the book becomes subordinate to the standard against which it’s truth is determined and measured.

It is clear that the language of Scripture itself cannot tell us which parts are “faith end practice” parts, and which are not. James Barr, himself no friend of inerrancy, makes this plain.

In other words, the sacred tradition of the apostolic church is never purely “religious language,” and still less so is the Old Testament as the sacred tradition of Israel. But the non-religious language of the Bible is of Theological importance just as the religious language is.

If Scripture’s language itself cannot clear up the question, then we must bring an outside source to bear on it. Commenting further on the Rogers McKim proposals, Woodbridge says,

They do say, however, that “ancient principles must be applied using all that we can learn about language and culture from the human and social sciences of the twentieth century” (p. 461). What this means in practicality is that the infallible salvation material can shrink or expand in accordance with the latest givens in higher biblical criticism, cultural anthropology, or findings from other disciplines. As the changing “givens of modernity” set standards for understanding Scripture for Bultmann, so they do for Rogers and McKim. In a word, the believer is obliged to give up the doctrine of sola Scriptura as the Reformers perceived it because his or her reason influenced by shifting “givens” becomes another authority. Our reason helps us to determine an infallible canon within the Scripture. Ironically, then, Rogers and McKim’s proposal which they package as one of “faith” before “reason” cracks the door open to the radical criticism of the Bible. Their unqualified fideism concerning the role of the Holy Spirit in confirming the authority of Scripture to believers is matched by an apparent unqualified confidence in reason’s rights to superintend biblical studies.

It is obvious that if you judge the Bible by an outside source, and that source is fallible, then in the final analysis, your own mind is the ultimate authority. J.I. Packer says:

He who makes his own judgment his grounds for rejecting anything in the Bible thereby logically makes his own judgment, rather than trust in God’s truthfulness, his ground for accepting everything in the Bible that he does accept.

This is seen quite clearly in Geisler’s quote of Davis: “Davis says, ‘there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible,’ and adds, ‘I have found none on matters of faith and practice.’” The words ‘I have found none’ give him away. It shows that even in the areas of faith and practice, he is on the lookout for errors, showing that ultimately he judges all of Scripture by himself as standard. Such a standard is obviously subjective. It can be concluded then, that if inerrancy is limited, we must apply subjective authority in discovering what is true and what is false, and such authority is inadequate.

The fifth difficulty is what has been termed the “domino theory.” Sproul describes this problem very well.

Frequently this concern is dismissed out of hand as being so much alarmism. But our doctrine of Scripture is not a child’s game of dominoes. We know instances in which men have abandoned belief if full inerrancy but have remained substantially orthodox in the rest of their Theology. We are also aware of the sad instances in which full inerrancy is affirmed yet the substance of theology is corrupt. Inerrancy is no guarantee of Biblical orthodoxy. Yet even a cursory view of church history has shown some patterns of correlation between a weakening of Biblical authority and a serious defection regarding the Wesen of Christianity. The Wesen of nineteenth century liberalism is hardly the gospel evangelicals embrace.

We have already seen, within evangelical circles, a move from limited inerrancy to challenges of matters of faith and practice. When the apostle Paul is depicted as espousing two mutually contradictory views of the role of women in the church, we see a critique of apostolic teaching that does touch directly on the practice of the church.

Geisler points outs:

Davis says, “there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible” and adds, “I have found none on matters of faith and practice.” However he speaks confidently of Paul’s sexism and even of Jesus’ mistaken belief about the time of His second coming.

Surely these are matters of faith and practice. Sproul says:

In the hotly disputed issue of homosexuality we see denominational commissions not only supplementing biblical authority with corroborative evidence drawn from modern sources of medical psychological study but also “correcting” the biblical view by such secular authority.

Obviously the domino theory is not “alarmism.” It is a real danger. That this domino effect exists does not prove anything as regards inerrancy, but it is evidence of the subjective nature of biblical authority with limited inerrancy.

A third method of trying to secure adequate authority for the errancy position is an appeal to church history. Rogers and McKim’s book is an excellent example of this. We will not deal extensively with this attempt, as it is so obviously a weak one, but it does deserve some attention.

In the forward to Rogers and McKim’s book, this statement is made.

To take seriously once more Calvin’s teaching on the Holy Scripture and its roots in Christian history and in the Bible itself means to restore the place of the Holy Spirit, not only as the inspirer of real, living human authors, but as the inspirer too of real, living human interpreters.

In the text of the book, Rogers and McKim say, “Calvin did not wish to substitute theology for philosophy. Each had it’s own appropriate realm -- theology for matters of salvation and the life of faith, and philosophy for matters of worldly wisdom and practice.”

Obviously the writers believe that Calvin did not believe in the full inerrancy of Scripture. Example after example of this could be given. Now of course, it can be argued with a great deal of force that this premise is false, and that the historic position of the Christian church is inerrancy. That is Woodbridge’s position, in his reply to Rogers and McKim. And Berkouwer, himself an errantist, seems to lend credence to the idea that the church did believe in inerrancy when he says,

There can be no doubt that for a long time during church history certainty of faith was specifically linked to the trustworthiness of Holy Scripture as the Word of God. Undoubtedly, Herman Bavinck is referring to this when he writes that there is no doctrine “on which there is more unanimity than on that of Holy Scripture.” From its earliest days the church held that Scripture is not an imperfect, humanly untrustworthy book of various religious experiences, but one with a peculiar mystery, even though the nature of that mystery was often a point of controversy.

But supposing it should be proven that the reformers, and the church fathers did believe the Bible to be errant. That would not make it true, for the church is not infallible. If it were, we would not need Scripture. If orthodoxy is false, let us by all means forsake orthodoxy. The reformers did, when they defied the authority of Rome. So the argument from church history is an extremely weak one.

The fourth attempt at retaining authority while holding to an errant Scripture is the view of neo-orthodoxy. It may be true that evangelicals today do not hold to neo-orthodoxy, but many are proposing a doctrine of Scripture that has varying degrees of similarity to the neo-orthodox position on Scripture, and therefore, it must be examined.

Although Karl Barth is considered the father of neo-orthodoxy, we need to go back to Soren Kierkegaard to find it’s real roots, for neo-orthodoxy is a form of religious existentialism.

Of Kierkegaard’s philosophy Geisler says, “Truth is a subjective encounter with God for which one has no good reason but which one must appropriate by a passionate ‘leap’ of faith. Indeed, Kierkegaard taught that all truth is subjective. He elevated faith as opposed to reason, and taught that there must be no reason for faith, because faith with a factual basis isn’t really faith. He said that the true object of faith was a paradox, not a fact. Truth is a subjective experience.

Nygren says, “Lessing constantly emphasized the search for the truth rather than the results of the search,” and that this was with Kierkegaard’s approval.

We find in Barth the same concept. Barth also finds truth in paradox. For him, there is no certain “yes” or “no”, but rather truth is in the tension between the two; certainty then becomes the greatest enemy of truth, because that tension must be maintained if the search for truth is to go on. In other words, truth is not something that you can know , only an experience you have in the midst of the throes of the dilemma between “yes” and “no.” This philosophy carries into the Bible as well. To Barth, the Bible is “through and through dialectic.”

What then is the neo-orthodox idea of the Bible? To them the Bible is not the Word of God, but it witnesses too the Word of God. It is myth, which illustrates to mens' mind truth, but truth that is not true until he recognizes it as such. It is not propositional truth, but emotional truth.

Barth says:

The Bible is the literary monument of an ancient racial religion and of a Hellenistic cultus religion of the Near East. A human document like any other, it can lay no a priori dogmatic claim to special attention and consideration. This judgment, being announced by every tongue and believed in every territory, we may take for granted today.

To him, it was not God, but Moses who created the law. “Why was it that Moses was able to create a law which for purity and humanity puts us moderns only to shame?”

The Genesis accounts of creation “are not at all an academic account of our beginnings. They are a powerful sermon (almost a song) that celebrate God’s power and glory over all the elements and objects of the universe which Israel’s neighbors falsely worshiped.” He says further, “For the same reason the Biblical idea of the creation is never expended into a cosmogony. It is intended for a solemn marking of the distance between the cosmos and the Creator, and precisely not for a metaphysical explanation of the World.”

For Barth, God is so separate from his creation that there is no positive contact between the two. There is no possibility of a human and divine coming together, so the Bible is purely human. God cannot serve. He must rule. He must himself grasp, seize, manage, use. He can satisfy no other needs than his own. He is not in another world over against this one; he submerges all of this in the other. He is not a thing among other things, but the Wholly Other, the infinite aggregate of all merely relative others.”

God is so far removed that objective, propositional communication to us is impossible. Barth complains that “instead of being the document of the axiomatic, the Bible tends to become to us a document of objective historical information.”

The Bible is faulty in its morals:

Abraham, for instance, as the highest proof of his faith desires to sacrifice his son to God; Jacob wins the birthright by a refined deception of his blind father; Elijah slays the four hundred and fifty priests of Baal by the brook Kishon. Are these exactly praiseworthy examples?

Van Til tells us,

In practice for Brunner ... the Bible cannot teach anything about the “phenomenal world.” According to the critical principle adopted in earlier works and assumed in the present one, the phenomenal world is the world of impersonal forces. And revelation is said to deal with the world of “personal encounter”.

Packer says that “the Bible that is thought of as man’s testament of religious feeling, self-understanding, and ethical inklings is not really the same book as the Bible that is received as God’s testimony to himself,” expressing the neo-orthodox view as contrasted with his own.

So basically the Bible is a human book, faulty, inaccurate, mythological, not proposing propositional truth, a record of religious feelings. What then has become of God’s Word?

It would be false to say that the neo-orthodox do not believe that there are propositions in Scripture; only that the propositions are not true. Indeed with existentialism, a proposition cannot be true, because truth is experience. But the propositions may point to truth.

Propositions are merely pointers; and pointers can be effective whether they are true or false. Brunner states very clearly that a pointer need not be true. Even a false proposition points, because God is free from the limitations of abstract truth and can reveal himself in false statements as easily as in true.

For the neo-orthodox, “The word of God is within the Bible.” 

That is not to say that parts of the Bible are the Word of God, and parts of it are not. Rather all of the Bible, whether true or false, may be the Word of God, if it reveals God to me. If it does not, then it is not the Word of God. The Bible is not true, it becomes true. “With this conscious reservation, that we are saying something that we do not know, that is true only when it becomes true, let the page now be turned, and the Bible’s final suggestion be taken up (as a suggestion!).”

The Bible cannot command -- it is not knowable; it becomes true, but truth cannot be known. Indeed, one could almost say that in reality, the Word of God is not in the Bible, but rather in us, and the Bible stimulates us to find it there. The Word of God is a “Mysterium tremendum that draws the men of the Bible before our eyes out and on to the edge of all experience, thought, and action, to the edge of time and history, and impels them to attempt to leap off into the air, where obviously no man can stand.” Here is the existential leap of faith -- no knowing, only believing.

In fact, the Word of God, and God himself ultimately become one. “We are asked to drop all metaphysics once and for all. When speaking of God’s transcendence we are not to think of some being existing in self-contained form prior to his relation to man. God is identical with his revelation.”

Such is the Word of God to the neo-orthodox. It is vague, mysterious, unknowable, never certain. In the paradox of Scripture, in the midst of its absurdity, one finds God in experience, in the midst of tension. Such an experience cannot really be communicated, and indeed no two will be alike.

So where is biblical authority in all this? Why do we believe? That is the crucial question.

It must surely be obvious that in a system where truth is subjective, and any claim to certainty is regarded as “sin”, that all authority must be subjective.

We find men everywhere who desire to acknowledge as from God only such Scriptures as ‘find them,” -- who cast the clear objective enunciation of God’s will to the mercy of the currents of thought and feeling which sweep up and down in their own souls.

Custer says that “every man’s mind becomes his own authority.”

It is true that the illumination of the Holy Spirit is often appealed to, to deliver from subjectivism.

Let it be said that both positions [Roman Catholic and neo-orthodox] invoke the Holy Spirit, the former as author of both Scripture and tradition, the latter as illuminating mind and conscience to enable each individual to formulate his personal understanding of Christianity.

We will deal more with this later, but let it be said here that this sounds good -- if it would work. But many people who all claim to be illuminated by the Spirit have contradictory views. You may say that the other person is not being led by the Spirit, really, and is therefore wrong. But on what basis are you going to argue that? If only by your own illumination by the Spirit, how do you test your own? How do you know yours is not false, and his is not true? And you cannot argue from Scripture, because it is in error, and illumination is supposed to be what clears it up. You have to decide who’s illumination is true before you know what Scripture is true.

Of course, in neo-orthodoxy it really doesn’t matter; both may be correct, for truth is not certainty, but experience. In any case, authority is subjective and therefore not adequate.

The truth is that the neo-orthodox enterprise of trying to re-establish the authority of biblical teaching on salvation while rejecting biblical teaching on Scripture is inherently inconsistent and self-contradictory; thus, all versions of neo-orthodoxy, like all versions of liberalism before them, exhibit a built-in arbitrariness that it is not possible to eliminate.

Though evangelicals may not follow neo-orthodoxy in its extreme, their borrowing from it results in the same subjectivity. Berkeley Michelsen, writing in Biblical Authority says, “In whatever way man responds to God, man establishes God’s authority.” Surely that is saying essentially the same as Barth did? God has no authority objectively -- it is in the individual personal response that authority is born. Such authority can only be subjective. Rogers and Hubbard also seem very near neo-orthodoxy, with the idea that Scripture is not all the word of God and that the real truth of Scripture is unfalsifiable and is accepted by what amounts to a blind faith.

Perhaps it should be mentioned in passing that many inerrantists who continually find “guidance” in Scripture apart from it’s contextual meaning are practicing neo-orthodoxy. Such guidance is in an unfalsifiable position, being unrelated to the meaning of the text, and essentially amounts to a claim of direct revelation from God. We must be careful not to base our actions and beliefs on such purely subjective grounds as this.

There is no escape of subjectivism on any level of neo-orthodoxy, and thus it provides no adequate authority.

The fifth major area of attempt at securing authority without inerrancy is by substituting a new view of truth. We said at the beginning of this paper that the classic view of truth was a correspondence view, or non-contradiction. Such a view says that truth is what corresponds to reality. And of course, error is what does not correspond to reality. This means that truth is a characteristic of propositions, not of reality. Reality is, truth is a statement that is in line with that reality. Reality is neither true or false. A lie can be real, but it is not true. In this view, a true person is one who is trustworthy -- he always makes true statements.

There is a new view of truth being applied today. It is an intentionalist view of truth. In other words, a statement is true if it accomplishes what the author intended it to accomplish. Now in this case, a statement might be true even if some or all of its content does not correspond with reality. On the other hand, if it does not accomplish its purpose, it is false even if all the information in it is factually correct.

Also, by this view, a person could be regarded as true, if he lives up to someone’s intentions for him. Under this view, the Bible could be true, even if it has factually incorrect statements in it. Minor errors are immaterial, because they do not hinder the salvation message from getting across.

This appears like a very convenient view of truth for the errantist to adopt. Let’s examine it a little more closely, however, and see some of its implications.

In this view a lie is, if not impossible, at least nearly impossible to discover. If a person tells something that is not correct, with the intent to deceive, then he told the truth, if in fact he did deceive. Thus, to be adept at deceiving is virtuous, by this view, and a person who is a great deceiver is the most true. Satan becomes, then, nearly as true as God, for he is the great deceiver.

In this view also, the 9th commandment does not make sense. “Do not bear false witness” would have to mean that everything you say must accomplish its purpose. But surely that is partly relative to your neighbor? If you intend to inform him, and he is a real idiot, you might be a liar no matter how hard you try, and you could not help but break that commandment.

Though there may be a measure of value in the intention view of truth, it is obviously inadequate. Courts of justice are a farce, by this view.

Errantists generally do not take this view to its logical conclusion, but let’s notice how they do make use of it, Berkouwer comments thus:

For if instrumentality is related to this one central witness, then the term “continuity” can legitimately by used in the doctrine of the God-breathed Scripture without falling into dualism. For this is in harmony with the purpose of God-breathed Scripture. One can never have a clear conception of the latter when it is “formally” approached under the category of correctness or conformity with reality; it must be approached in direct relation to the nature and content of Scripture. For the purpose of the God-breathed Scripture is not at all to provide a scientific gnosis, in order to convey and increase human knowledge and wisdom; but to witness of the salvation of God unto faith. This approach does not mean to separate faith and knowledge. But the knowledge that is the unmistakable aim of Scripture is the knowledge of faith, which does not increase human wisdom, but is life eternal (Jn. 17:3).

He claims not to separate faith and knowledge. Yet such is the inevitable result of his view. If Scripture truth is governed by its purpose, then it is intentional, and is clearly a different kind of truth than scientific truth; or else, if scientific truth is also intentional, then it is meaningless. Dualism is not avoided.

He says later on,

It is not that Scripture offers us no information but that the nature of this information is unique. It is governed by the purpose of God’s revelation. The view of inspiration that forms the basis of the misunderstanding of this purpose considers “inerrancy” essential as a parallel characterization of reliability; that is a flight of fancy away from this purpose.

There is one more basic fallacy of this whole view. There are only two options. If Scripture must be interpreted according to its goal, then one must ask the question, “How do I find the goal.” If it is in Scripture, then I must interpret Scripture to find that goal, and at the same time interpret it according to that goal, which means that I must presuppose it. If I find the goal outside of Scripture, on the other hand, then I have an extra biblical authority over Scripture. There is no solution to this dilemma. Either way, my authority has become subjective.

At the same time, this view also destroys the unity of truth, as we have already intimated. Hubbard says, “Error theologically must mean that which leads us astray from the will of God or the knowledge of his truth.”

There is a definite discrepancy here between God’s truth, and other truth. If Jesus Christ is the Truth (John 14:6), and if God is the final absolute upon which all truth rests, the creator and sustainer, then surely all truth is his truth, and no truth is unimportant, or unrelated to any other truth. A scientist who discovers new truth about the universe is doing God’s will, as it was given to Adam. If we divide truth, we have lost our basis for rationality.

Obviously, as well, the intentionalists do not hold their view consistently. For example, Hubbard accused Lindsell of false statements about Fuller. But to do so, he had to revert to a correspondence view of truth. They use intention to interpret Scripture, but correspondence when criticizing.

At other times they use their theory well for their own convenience. Woodbridge says of Rogers and McKim, “The apologetic variety of history which Rogers and McKim write will make some professional historians wince.” Yet surely, manipulation of history is consistent with their view of truth. If it accomplishes its aim of persuading people to their view, it is true, whether it is correct or not, factually.

Another area of subjectivity in this view that should be mentioned is that it makes truth depend upon the receiver. It might be consistently argued, by intentionalism, that the Bible is true for such people as accept it, and false for such as refuse it.

There are two more methods of attempting to retain authority which we want to mention only briefly, and more study needs to be done into these two areas. The first is what I call “spiritualism.” We mentioned it once before in dealing with neo-orthodoxy. It is the view that the Holy Spirit enables us to discern between the truth and error of Scripture.

There is no doubt that illumination is a very important doctrine, and deserves far more attention than it gets. Packer says:

Bible commentaries, Bible classes, Bible lectures and courses, plus the church’s regular expository ministry, can give us fair certainty as to what scripture meant (and we should make full use of them to that end), but only through the Spirit’s illumination shall we be able to see how the teaching applies to us in our own situation.

But is it adequate to insure objective authority in the face of an errant Bible?

Hubbard thinks that it is. He says:

What proof did the prophets need to test whether God was speaking to them? Nothing but the power of that word itself. What proof did the Thessalonicans need that Paul’s gospel was true? Nothing but the conviction of God the Holy Spirit. What proof do we need to know whether the Bible is the Word of God? Nothing but the Spirit of God speaking to us in Scripture.

Actually, Hubbard’s examples are unfortunate, because although the prophets did not demand proof, God told the people not to believe them unless all that they said came to pass (Deut. 18:22), and Paul commended the Bereans, because they did not accept what he had to say without test, but being more noble than the Thessalonicans, they searched the Scripture to test the truth of Paul’s gospel. But Hubbard is not the only one who appeals to the Spirit.

Dr. Cremer was called upon to write the article “Inspiration” in the second edition of Herzog’s “realencyklopedia” (Vol. vi, sub. voc; pp. 745 seq.) which saw the light in 1880. In preparing this article he was led to take an entirely new view of the meaning of Qeopneustos, according to which it defines Scripture, in II Tim. iii. 16, not according to its origin, but according to its effect -- not as “inspired of God,” but as “inspiring its readers.”

Pinnock also seeks his authority in the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

I have come to place greater confidence in the power of the Spirit to make the Bible come alive for believers than I did before ... . Stress on the Spirit is noticeably lacking in the literature of inerrancy. I think it reveals a preoccupation with apologetic certainty....

If one is an errantist, then the only way to maintain authority is to assume that the Spirit enables us to differentiate between error and truth in Scripture. It is not enough to say that he helps us to understand it, for that does not deal with the problem. That the Spirit teaches us to understand it is the inerrantist position. There is no point in understanding error. Indeed, it cannot be understood, really, because error is unreasonable, and what is unreasonable cannot be understood.

The problem is, then, who’s witness of the Spirit is authoritative? Supposing two of us hold contradictory views as to what is error and what is true, both claiming the Spirit’s guidance. Unless you have something to test against, there is no reason for anybody to believe you before me. The authority is therefore subjective, and for that reason inadequate; it is inescapable.

The final attempt is that of direct revelation. This is at present uncommon among evangelicals, though it is the rule among cultists. But it is the next logical step from “spiritualism”; in fact, spiritualism is a disguised form of direct revelation. In spiritualism, the Spirit gives me direct revelation as to the true canon within the Bible. In direct revelation, I am not restricted to the Bible.

Pache says, ”Almost every heresy and sect has originated in a supposed revelation or a new experience on the part of its founder, something outside the strictly biblical framework.”

This is the ultimate result of acceptance of extra biblical and subjective authority. It is inadequate for precisely the same reasons as is spiritualism, so we will not bother to further refute it, but refer the reader back to that section.

 

To conclude our investigation of authority, let us note that without inerrancy, we have no adequate authority;

If it is finally settled that Scripture can err, then the church and its theologians will learn that no source and no standard remains to solve further doctrinal problems that may arise.

When we have no adequate authority, our doctrines have no secure base.

Where this [inerrancy] confession is not made, Scripture will not all be taken with all seriousness, elements of its teaching will inevitably be ignored, and the result, as Lindsell and Schaeffer with others correctly foresee, is bound to be a certain diminution of supernatural Christian faith -- as we have seen in the various versions of liberalism, neo-orthodoxy, and “biblical theology” and as we must now expect to see in new forms in tomorrow’s Roman Catholicism.

 

I am saying that whether it takes five years or fifty years any denomination or para-church group that forsakes inerrancy will end up shipwrecked. It is impossible to prevent the surrender of other important doctrinal teachings of the Word of God when Inerrancy is gone.

It may be argued by some that inerrancy does not provide any more adequate authority then does errancy.  Pinnock argues, with many others, that inerrancy is really not valid, since we all admit errors in our copies. Surely this argument can be seen through, since with the matter of the text we have variations, and we are quite aware what they are. Most of the text is quite certain.

The second argument is more difficult to refute; namely, that Scripture cannot be understood until it is interpreted, and that any interpretation will be subjective, since it will be colored by our background, education, etc. Now it may be true that interpretation has subjective elements in it, but it does not need to be wholly so. If language is valid, then much of Scripture will be obvious without much interpretation. The more precise the language, and the more objective it is, the less interpretation is involved. Also, we have something to test our interpretation against. We believe in the validity of reason. We recognize that man’s reason is fallen and so tainted. But though we may not be able, by reason, to understand infallibly, when the Holy Spirit points out inconsistency to us (error) in our interpretation, we can recognize it if we will. We have an objective base to argue from, whatever material we must deal with subjectively. We have an objective authority, infallible in all it touches, and therefore adequate.Inerrancy and. Authority

 

 

 

 

With all the talk of inerrancy, limited inerrancy, and various other  questions about the Bible today, it may sometimes be forgotten that what is actually at stake is the issue of authority. It is not a question of whether or not we have an authority. Montgomery, in writing about Romanism, says:

Surely some final authority must exist, and it would. appear that it now rests in the New Shape Roman theologian and. his community of like-minded. souls. There is thus more than irony in the definition of infallibility in Dominican Maurice Lelong’s “New Church Lexicon”: “The scandal of Vatican I. Infallibility can only be collective and. popular.” Inerrancy can no longer focus on one book or one man; it is now corporate and. democratic! Does this suggest the profound truth that no one ever dispenses with authority - one only relocates it?

Authority always exists. The question is, is my authority adequate? Where is it located?

I contend that, although any view of scripture allows for some kind of authority, without inerrancy there can be no adequate authority for the questions facing us.

This is not presented as a proof of inerrancy. It simply does not follow that because we need an adequate authority, therefore we must have it. If inerrancy of Scripture is false, my contention is that we do not have an adequate authority, and if we do not have an adequate authority, we will have to live without one - or we can commit suicide, and. if the Bible is errant, we have no authority great enough to tell us we must not do so.

In order to present my arguments clearly, it is important to the reader know where I am coming from. Many writers today do not begin by establishing their presuppositions, perhaps with the hope that the reader will think they don’t have any. But no one ever thinks without presuppositions, and for this reason, every argument is actually circular. The logical positivist, who claims to work inductively from primary information, still has to presuppose the validity of reason, or his senses.

Not only do all arguments carry presuppositions, but presuppositions are very difficult to refute, because before they can be falsified they must be given up. They cannot be proven or dis-proven.

That is not to say, however, that no argument can be persuasive. J. M. Frame brings this out clearly.

A “proof” of, say, the primacy of reason, can be highly persuasive and logically sound even though, at one level, circular. The circularity is rarely blatant; it lurks in the background.. One never says, “reason is true because reason says it is.” One says instead, “Reason is true because one must presuppose it even to deny it.” The second. argument is just as circular as the first. Both presuppose the validity of reason. But in the second argument the presupposition is implicit rather than explicit. And the second one is highly persuasive! The irrationalist cannot help but note that he is (in many cases) presenting his irrationalism in a highly rational way. He is trying to be more rational than the rationalist - a contradictory way to be! He must decide either to be a more consistent irrationalist (but note the paradox of that!) or to abandon his irrationalism. Of course, he might renounce consistency altogether, thus renouncing the presupposition of the argument. But the argument shows him vividly how hard it is to live without rationality. The argument is circular, but it draws some important facts to his attention. The argument is persuasive though circular because down deep in our hearts we know that we cannot live without reason.

 

Again he says:

A Christian Theist, while conceding that the argument for God’s existence is circular, nevertheless will claim that the argument is sound and persuasive, for he devoutly believes that his position is true, and he believes that it can be recognized clearly as such. He believes that God made man to think in terms of this circularity, rather than in terms of some competing circularity.”

While conceding that my arguments will be ultimately circular, and admitting my presuppositions right from the start, as I believe any honest writer ought to do, I still believe that the arguments presented will be reasonable and, hopefully, persuasive.

 

Basic presuppositions of this paper

 

Firstly, in this paper I am presupposing the validity of reason, or more specifically, the principle of non-contradiction. Actually, anyone who ever sits down to write, or even anyone who converses with anyone, has in practice presupposed. the validity of reason, for without reason, all communication is nonsense, and it is foolish to attempt it. It stands to reason that if my propositions can contradict reality, and if I can contradict myself, then in fact I will have communicated nothing to anyone; reason is therefore essential to communication.

Indeed, one cannot even do away with reason unreasonably. To deny reason, one must first assume it, as Frame pointed out above.

Secondly, I am presupposing the validity of language as a means of expressing truth.

There is a contemporary view of language that claims that language is incapable of conveying truth about God. Indeed, some linguists go so far as to say that language cannot be true at all, because of the discrepancy between the word and the object. But there is an immediate problem with this proposition. If we say, “Language cannot convey truth,” then we must ask, is that a true statement? If it is a true statement, then it is false, for it has just done what it said could not be done. And if it is false, on the other hand, then it is eliminated.

So language can convey truth; if it could not people would not talk, because it would be practically meaningless to do so. But what about God-talk? Is that, perhaps meaningless?

David Hume, the skeptical empiricist, was convinced that God-talk is non-sense. Geisler writes concerning his principle,

According to this principle, a statement, to be meaningful, must either be true by definition, (such as “all triangles have three sides”) or else it must be verifiable by one or more of the five senses. The principle, of course, proved to be too narrow (since it eliminated even some scientific statements) and had to be revised. But the conclusion reached by Ayer and other semantical atheists after him is still with us, namely that all God-talk is meaningless.”

 

This is also the basic idea of the logical positivist. But how do we answer it? It is true that much God’-talk cannot be verified, or falsified, by the senses. Is it therefore meaningless?

We must realize that God-talk is a language of presupposition. And as we said before, presupposition resists falsification. Indeed, the presuppositions of the logical positivist (the validity of logic, and the senses) cannot be empirically tested, and. so are non-sense by their own standard!

Obviously, God-talk is valid when viewed in that light. In fact, the idea that language is useless is based on the presupposition that language evolved. We presuppose, rather, that language was given to man by God, and is therefore meaningful. It cannot convey all there is to know about God, but it can express something about God validly and truthfully.

Even though the argument of this paper is not based on inerrancy, there can be no question that it is a presupposition that will color the content of the paper, and so I include it as my third presupposition. Some may feel that this is not truly a presupposition, since it seems to be arguable without circularity, but in reality it is not. Let us follow the argument closely. Warfield gives the basis of the doctrine clearly.

We believe this doctrine of the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures primarily because it is the doctrine which Christ and his apostles believed, and which they have taught to us. It may sometimes seem difficult to take our stand frankly by the side of Christ and his apostles. It will always be found safe.

In the same vein, Montgomery says, “Logically, if the Bible is not inerrant, though Jesus thought it was, He can hardly be the incarnate God He claimed to be and for whom the same claims are made by his apostles.”

I believe that the evidence from Scripture that Christ did believe in inerrancy has been adequately given by other writers, but we may cite, for example, Matt. 5:18, and Luke 14:17, or Matt. 22:43, demonstrating that Christ argued the very words of the Psalm. But one might say, “You are taking your evidence that Christ believed in inerrancy of Scripture from Scripture, and must therefore presuppose it’s inerrancy, since if it is not inerrant, then it may be in error at the points of Christ’s view of Scripture.” I must respond, that is correct. Thus, inerrancy is a presupposition, howbeit, I believe, a valid one.

Finally, a point that is more of a clarification than a presupposition. We must differentiate between a system of hermeneutics, and a statement regarding the nature of Scripture. Some, for example, have argued against inerrancy, saying that the Bible does not speak with scientific accuracy, i.e. that it often rounds numbers, etc. Now, that may be a sound principle of interpretation, or it may not, but it has nothing to say about whether the Bible is inerrant or not. In fact, it more supports inerrancy than otherwise. Inerrancy is a presupposition which hermeneutics must take into account. Parker expresses this very lucidly in his article, Encountering Present-day views of Scripture.

Though the confession of inerrancy does not help us to make the literary judgments that interpretation involves, it commits us in advance to harmonize and integrate all that we find Scripture teaching, without remainder, and so makes possible a theological grasp of Christianity that is altogether believing and altogether obedient.

There are other presuppositions that it might be useful to the reader to know, but I think most would be summed up adequately by saying that I hold a Theistic World View.

As to the scope of this paper, I am not attempting to defend the doctrine of inerrancy, or even of inspiration. I am only seeking to establish my thesis. I shall begin with a short historical analysis of the concept of truth, and show how views of truth have changed through the past centuries. I will then seek to give a method of building a view of truth, and for testing such views. I will show how the modern views of truth are inadequate, and. why the classic view of truth did not satisfy.

All this is to lay the groundwork for a discussion of authority, because authority is ultimately based on truth. I will describe two kinds of authority, showing the adequacy of one, and the inadequacy of the other.

I will then give the major views of Scripture that various errantists have used in an attempt to preserve an adequate authority for Scripture, and I will show why they cannot do so. In conclusion, I will show how inerrancy does provide an adequate authority.

 

I. A short historical analysis of the concept of truth

The classic view of truth is two-fold. First, truth cannot be contradictory (i.e. A cannot at the same time be non-A), and second, it must correspond with reality. This idea of truth assures two things. First, it assures that truth is a unity, for if a truth cannot be contradictory and still be true, then it follows that a truth from the realm of, say, physics cannot contradict a truth from the realm of biology, or one of them is not true. Or, a truth from the realm of history cannot contradict a truth from the realm of theology, or nature, and so on. So if the law of non-contradiction is valid, then there must be a unity to truth, and if the unifying factor can be discovered, all truth can be correlated.

Secondly, it assures that truth will be objective, for it must correspond to reality. That does not, of course, mean that every real proposition is true. A proposition may be a real proposition and yet not be in line with reality (i.e. a lie). Thus, a true proposition about a proposition that does not line up with reality is “that is a lie,” because that lines up with the reality of the falsity of the first proposition.

Neither does this do away with the validity of subjective or relative truth, because both are actually objective assessments of limited or comparative facts. For example, if a person says, “Spinach is good,” that subjective statement may be objectively true as it pertains to that person if in fact he really likes spinach, or thinks that spinach is good even if he does not like it. If so, it is a valid subjective truth, and it is also objectively true as regards that person.

The classical pagan philosophers were unable to correlate all truth, because they lacked. the unifying factor, i.e. the theistic God. The apostles possessed the unifying factor, and were able to build a valid epistemology that could account for both general principles and particular incidents. But with Thomas Aquinas that began to change. He believed that there was some good in the human intellect, that it was not totally depraved.

Bacon followed his lead. Geisler says of him,

After tearing down the “idols” of the old deductive method of discovering truth, Bacon argued that “the best demonstration by far is experience.” The inductive method, he said, is the true way to interpret nature. One can understand how Bacon could consider inductive logic a valid method for scientific inquiry, but he went far beyond reasonable bounds when he claimed universal applicability for his method.

This means that every general principle had to be derived from experience-able details. The fact that he was assuming a general principle a priori (i.e. that reason is capable of interpreting man’s experiences) did not seem to occur to him.

But what would he do with God? For God could not be discovered inductively. Again from Geisler:

For Bacon and even more clearly for Hobbes who followed him, the Bible serves a religious and evocative function -- it leads us to honor and obey God but does not make cognitive truth claims about God nor affirmations about the physical universe.

What Bacon and Hobbes had done, whether or not they realized it, was to deny either non-contradiction or else the truth of theology. Thus they set the groundwork for the destruction of the unity of truth. For Hobbes, religion is absurd, and must be accepted by blind faith. But why accept it if it is not true? And if it is true, you have two kinds of truth that are contradictory! Unity is destroyed, and essentially, non-contradiction is destroyed.

Immanuel Kant also contributed to the loss of unity. He was an agnostic, and taught that we cannot know, only perceive. We can know the “thing-to-me,” (phenomenal) but not the “thing-in-itself” (noumenal). This gulf is impassible by the nature of knowing (i.e. as Bacon taught it). Although he did not deny objective truth, he said we cannot know it. Facts have nothing to do with values, because facts are what we perceive, values are what are real. So perceptions, in his thinking, are objective, realities subjective.

Kierkegaard followed Kant, also making a fact/value dichotomy, but distinguishing between the factual or propositional and. the personal. The two were unrelated. God is beyond proof, the doctrines of God and of inspiration are unfalsifiable, because totally divorced from reason. God then becomes practically subjective. He can only be known by faith, whereas facts are known by reason. So we have the same dichotomy between theological Truth and. natural truth.

It is interesting that Rogers and McKim attribute this same dichotomy to Calvin:

Calvin did not wish to substitute theology for philosophy. Each had. its own appropriate realm -- theology for matters of salvation and the life of faith, and philosophy for matters of worldly wisdom and practice.

It is hard to conceive of Calvin as a modern man!

The third stage is a move to irrationality. Following Bacon’s lead, and moving from specifics to universals, man finally realized that he had to give up the rationality of faith, and theology, but not only that. Everything had to be irrational. Why? Because ideally all facts must be related to a system to be intelligib1e. But man found that facts are so varied that he could not find a system that would cover all of them. He despaired of ever doing so, and concluded that all facts are irrational and unrelated. Rationality is purely a subjective, pragmatic way of looking at things. It must be subjective, because (following Kant) I am the only person that I know exists. I perceive everyone else, and that means they are phenomenal and unknowable. And it must be pragmatic because “If factuality is non-rational, it is expected that rationality will be merely ‘practical’.” It is clear that we cannot live without reason, but if it is unreal, then it must be some make-believe practical system that we adopt to give ourselves security.

Not only does truth become subjective under irrationality, but the way is opened for humanism as well. If my own existence is the only thing I can be sure of, then I must make myself the ultimate reference point for interpreting my perceptions. As Van Til says,

That issue may be stated simply and comprehensively by saying that in the Christian view of things it is the self-contained God who is the final point of reference, while in the case of the modern view it is the would-be self-contained man who is the final point of reference in all interpretation.”

We will see later on what this does to authority.

 

II. An adequate test for systems of truth

If we are ever to arrive at some idea of what truth is, we must have a test by which we evaluate each view of truth.

The first thing we must not do is formulate a test that will, by definition, rule out any view of truth but what we want truth to be. For example, Hume argued against miracles by defining a miracle as something that never happens. If we accept that definition, then of course there are no miracles in reality, because as soon as something happens it is not a miracle, by the definition. Such an argument is not valid. It is a misuse of language.

An adequate view of truth must be able to account for everything; every fact, every observation, every feeling, every illusion. There must be nothing in the universe that is not covered by the system. The only alternative is to give up rationality, and we have shown in the introduction how difficult that is. We should not give it up until we have tried every possibility.

But how can we go about building a system of truth that will cover everything? I would like to suggest that we search for truth in the same way that the legendary Sherlock Holmes sought for criminals.

In the first place, we must not pretend to think without presuppositions. If we think we do, we are deceiving ourselves, and a self-deceived person will never arrive at truth. In fact, our system of truth, ultimately, is our presupposition. So what we really have to test are our presuppositions.

Secondly, we must not limit ourselves to any one way of thinking. Some thinkers have tried to reason from pure deduction, but have not been able to deduce all that is. Others, like Bacon, have tried to reason from induction only, but have not been able to put all their facts into any one system. But is it inconceivable that both methods of thinking could be used together? It ought to be attempted.

Thirdly, one must not rule out, a priori, any system of truth simply because it carries obligations with it, or would demand change of us. That is dishonesty.

How did Holmes operate? He took the facts that he had, and from them induced. several general theories. From these theories he deduced further facts that ought to exist if the theory were correct. Then he would begin to look for those facts. If they did not, in reality, exist, he tried a different theory, and tested it in the same way. At the same time, again inducing, if he discovered a fact that did not fit the theory, he altered or expanded the theory, or else dropped it, and continued on from there.

If we apply this method to modern systems of thought, we are faced with some grave difficulties. Both irrationality and subjectivism are out of line with our minds -- and our minds are part of what is there. Neither one can account for it. We find it impossible to think in a totally irrational manner. Both leave us with subjective truth, and. yet we cannot live with that either, for we are forever trying to persuade other people to think like we do, or at least thinking that they are wrong in the way they think. But if truth is subjective, then nobody is wrong, and. if that were true, we would not think that they are wrong. We are contradicting our presuppositions to suppose so.

Let us postulate a pantheistic world view. Can it account for all that is? Well, it says that all is unity. But is that all there is? Don’t we experience diversity? Ah, yes, but that appearance of diversity is illusion. But surely the illusion is something different from the reality? For if illusion and reality were the same thing, we would never know the difference. Pantheism cannot account for all there is.

Perhaps the universe is all chance. Will that explain all there is? From that premise, we would naturally expect the universe to be random. There is, in that view, no real cause and effect. Why should chance move in an orderly way? We never experience it so. But the world seems to be orderly, not random. And if all is chance, the universe should be impersonal. But that does not account for man, who at least appears to be personal. And if all is chance, why don’t we live that way? Why are we careful what we eat, what we do, etc? For if all is chance, then when I jump off a bridge, I never know if I will fall or not. Chance cannot account for all that is.

Perhaps someone would argue that the classic view of truth as objective and unified has not been able to explain all there is either. We would reply that those who did not find it adequate built it on too narrow a foundation. It can account for all there is, if one admits the possibility of a theistic God.

Working from the general hypothesis of a theistic God, one would expect order in the universe. And in fact, the universe seems to be orderly. One would expect some evidence of personality, and man seems to be personal. A correlation between man and his environment would be expected, and we find such a correlation. We would expect man to have a moral sensibility, and he does. We would. expect a correlation between man’s thoughts, and the place in which he lives, and man does tend to think in terms of correspondence.

We could go on and on. It is granted that an adequate application of this method is beyond the power of the pen, but it is also believed that if anyone will look honestly at the issue, he will see that as there are only a limited number of possibilities, and only one will account for all that is, it must be correct. And if it is, then we have preserved rationality -- unity and objectivity.

 

III. The question of authority

The next question confronting us is, what about authority? What is it? What constitutes an adequate authority?

The dictionary gives several definitions of the word. For example, “A citation (as from a book) used in defense or support of ones actions, opinions, or beliefs,” or “power to require and receive submission: the right to expect obedience.”

Both carry with them the idea of a control of actions and beliefs. Authority is the reason behind what I do and think. Authority is the “ought” of life. Perhaps authority is not necessary, in the ultimate sense of the word, but none the less, “no one ever dispenses with authority, one only relocates it.” Every man attempts always to show reasons why he is right, or why he did what he did, and if he does not, it is because he considers himself the ultimate authority.

J.I. Packer comments that “only truth can have final authority to determine belief and behavior.” The idea is that the “ought” says that I must bring my beliefs and behavior into line with what is true.

But why should I believe what is true? What is wrong with believing something that is false? To many, this question may seem absurd. Of course, it is stupid to deliberately believe a falsehood. But it is a legitimate question none the less. So again I ask, why? Because it is necessary for survival. I will not live long, physically if I refuse to live according to the physical reality of the universe. But even more important, I will not survive spiritually without living in harmony with the spiritual reality of the universe.

Not only does authority involve the demand that we line up with truth, it also involves how we discover truth. Everything we believe we believe on authority. We accept on authority that Julius Caesar was a Roman Emperor. Our authority is history, or more correctly, historians. Our authority for believing something may be another person, or a book, or our own senses, or our own reason. But we always believe by assuming the authority of our source of knowledge. We cannot know without authority.

 

Finally, authority must be as general as the class to which it refers. For example, human beings are all a part of the material universe. Therefore the realities of matter have authority over all mankind. Every man, to survive, must live in line with material reality. No one is exempt from the authority of the reality of gravity. Every unsupported body within the gravitational dominance of the earth falls toward the earth.

So a man needs two things; his authority must be able to tell him what reality is, and also how to live in harmony with the reality.

Authority is based on truth. Therefore since we have two basic concepts of truth, we have also two ideas of authority.

If, as many claim, truth is subjective, then authority is also subjective. The idea of subjective truth is based on the assumption that all that is real is in the subject. The material universe may not be real, nor other people either. All that I know is real is myself. Subjective authority says that the only reality I must line up with is myself, and that I myself can be trusted as the source of truth regarding myself. Now, if in fact reality only involves myself, then subjective authority is adequate. But if reality can apply to things other than myself, such authority is not adequate, because it does not account for all of reality. In fact, truth is not subjective, and this is illustrated by the fact that not even the subjectivists live as though it were. If they do, they don’t live. Even a subjectivist will get out of the way of a Mack truck, if he sees it. Why? Because he recognizes and submits to the objective authority of the laws of motion. Objective authority is adequate, for it accounts for the Mack truck. Subjective authority is not adequate, and the subject knows it.

Some would say that we need objective authority in the material realm, but that subjective authority is adequate in the spiritual realm.

More than a century ago, he [Schleiermacher] taught that the true source of theology was not the Bible but man’s religious consciousness. Thus the objective revelation of God in the Bible was set aside, and man’s subjective opinions were exalted to the position of authority.

Again, the only possible way to hold this is to assume that man is the only spiritual reality in the universe. If there is a God who is real, subjective authority cannot account for him.

It may be argued that objective authority is not adequate either, because it demands that I be in harmony with all of reality, and I cannot know all of reality. By this argument, I should not be surviving. This objection is invalid on two counts. Not all of reality is applicable to me directly and at all times. If there are no elephants where I live, then truths about elephants may not be applicable to me at present. Secondly, it does not take the theistic God into account. If he is the creator, then we can expect him to be in harmony with all of reality. And therefore, if we are in harmony with him, we will be in harmony with all of reality. That does not mean that we approve of all reality. The way to be in harmony with the reality of sin, for example, is to hate it, and expect it to be judged, finally.

In summary, subjective authority is not adequate, because it takes myself only into account. If there is any reality there, besides myself, subjective authority cannot account for it, and any attempt to do so is no more authoritative than anyone elses' attempt.

Objective authority, on the other hand, is adequate if the source is dependable and knowledgeable. Keep in mind that a source may be dependable and knowledgeable in a limited sphere, and so be adequate authority in that limited sphere, but remain an inadequate authority in a broader sphere. For example, our senses are a reliable source of objective authority, in a limited. sphere (the material) and when their frailties are taken into account (i.e. one must be tested against the other, for our senses may be deceiving; and their limits must be recognized). That the senses are a relatively objective authority is seen in the fact that by following them we manage to survive, whereas when they are impaired (i.e. as through alcohol consumption), non-survival increases. But our senses, on the other hand , are not an adequate objective authority for direct spiritual awareness.

 

 

IV. The search for authority in errancy

 

There are perhaps two main reasons why many evangelicals have repudiated the inerrancy of Scripture. The first is because of apparent internal contradictions. They believe that there are things in Scripture that do not harmonize; such as various dates, etc. The second reason is that they believe there are things in Scriptures that contradict the findings of science. Berkouwer tacitly admits this, when he says, “This has gone hand in hand with an increasing revulsion against ‘harmonism’ and ‘concordism’ phenomena which all too often advance a view of Scripture that demands too much of it.”

Stephen Davis says that the Bible should be authoritative for every Christian on all that it says on any subject until he comes across something which he judges that he, for good reasons, cannot accept.

What the errantists may not realize is that they had to shift their authority before they could assert that there are any errors in the Bible. If scripture is our absolute authority, then what contradicts it must be wrong, and contradictions within it must be apparent, and should be possible to harmonize with proper hermeneutics and further light. Only if I, a priori, admit that there are other authorities at least equal to Scripture, can I admit to errors in Scripture. This attitude toward Scripture is not in the least a necessary one. Better scholarship is constantly reducing the internal conflicts in Scripture, and science is a very unstable pillar to build one’s authority upon. It is continually changing its dogmas. For example, Scripture was once scoffed at for talking about the sun rising, (though every scientist, in everyday language, speaks of the sunrise and sunset). But now, with the advent of relativity, scientist say that it really doesn’t matter whether you speak of the sun going around the earth, or the earth around the sun; it all depends on your frame of reference, anyway. We have no way of knowing for sure which way it is. So old concepts of science are shown to be out of date, and if the Bible is allowed to change by every whim of science, it may be false today and true tomorrow.

Errantists have recognized that with their view of inspiration, Biblical authority was placed on a flimsy foundation, and have proposed a variety of theories to maintain the authority of an errant Scripture. But none of them are adequate to do so, as we shall see in the remainder of this paper.

In these systems there is bound to be overlap, as they all have some things in common, and a few things are common to all. This should be kept in mind as we proceed.

The first theory that we will examine is the theory of accommodation, or adaptation.

The basic idea of this theory is that God accommodated himself to humanity in the Scriptures in order to make them comprehensible to man, and in so doing, had to incorporate errors. It is often likened to a little child who’s father talks to him in a truncated language, accommodating himself to the child’s vocabulary and understanding. Pinnock uses this argument, claiming that it is not necessary for the Bible to be inerrant just because it is inspired, because God uses fallible human beings all the time to proclaim his word, and he accomplishes his purpose by it.

There are several assumptions of this view that should be pointed out. First, that the Bible errs because it presents things as they appear, rather than as they are. Second, the idea that if God accommodates himself to human language, he must err, because humans err. Thirdly, the idea that because the Bible emphasizes certain things, it may err in what it dots not emphasize. And finally, because it is written by men, it must err, because men err.

This view is often taken further, to say that God not only accommodated himself to human language, but to the Hebrew thought forms and to the contemporary culture as well.

An integral and practical part of the theory of accommodation is the separation of the “human” and “divine” elements of Scripture. Pinnock says, “Although Protestant orthodoxy confesses both the divine and the human element in the Bible, as it also does in Christology, it has been happier affirming its divine authority than admitting its human characteristics.” He says further, “The prime theological issue which became evident in our survey of options on biblical authority is the need to maintain with equal force both the humanity and the divinity of the word of Scripture.”

The idea of this dichotomy is that the Bible is the writing of men, written with their own peculiar literary style, their own backgrounds, viewpoints, world views, education, and so on as a foundation for that writing. It is contended that they must have erred, since their world view would be as erroneous as their contemporaries’.

 

In fact, there is a legitimate idea of accommodation. God did condescend to speak in human language. There is no other way for him to make himself intelligible to man. But it does not follow that language therefore must err, in that it is human. A father, in accommodating himself to a small child, does not necessarily misinform him, simply because he is speaking a child language. Although he may not be able to give comprehensive truth, in the sense of saying all that could be said, due to the child’s limited understanding, what he says can still be precise. Neither is strict precision always necessary, and when it is not needed lack of it is not a fault. I may, in everyday conversation, speak of the “five mile corner.” That is adequate and true, for in normal usage, nobody would expect me to say “five miles, three feet, four point zero zero one six three inches.” It would not mean anything to anyone anyway. Rounding is an accepted language procedure.

Young demonstrates that within the context of a Biblical view of truth there is room for crudity and roughness of literary style, including improper grammatical structure, variations of parallel accounts of events, discourses, etc. but not room for contradiction or deception. Phenomenological, anthropomorphic, hyperbolic, etc. forms of language do not negate or falsify truth.

Human language may err, but it does not necessarily do so. As to God accommodating himself to Hebrew thought forms, there is, of course, a nucleus of truth here. The Old Testament is written in Hebrew, in Hebrew style, and reflecting Hebrew thought. But although a language does reflect the thought forms of a culture, it is not bound to them. James Barr argues that it is an unsound linguistic procedure to make the supposed thought structure of a language group dictate the possible meanings of the words in that language. Although the language may reflect the thought patterns of a group, it can express truths not dominant in the particular thought pattern. It is true that to interpret correctly, we must be aware of such things, but that is hermeneutics. It does not follow that the Bible errs.

Again, it is argued that Scripture adapts to and reflects human culture, and. so must err. To put it more clearly, the Bible can be discounted where it touches on culture, because it was only reflecting the culture of the day, and that culture is not necessarily right. Of this idea Warfield says:

The fact is that the theory of ‘accommodation’ is presented by Mr. Stuart only to enable him the more easily to refuse to be bound by the apostolic teaching in this matter, and as such it has served him as a stepping stone by which he has attained to an even more drastic principle, on which he practically acts: that wherever the apostle can be shown to agree with their contemporaries, their teaching may be neglected.

It obviously does not follow that agreement with contemporaries indicates error, especially as it may be noticed that on many points the Bible counters current culture.

Perhaps the overall argument here is that the Bible, as a human book, must be subject to error, but that in it’s divine aspect, it is authoritative. This may sound reasonable, but three things need to be realized. First, because it is a human book, it does not necessarily err. Christ was human, and yet did not err. This we must hold to, for “had he been mistaken... the church could well ask whether any single teaching of Jesus on any subject (including the way of salvation) might not also reflect his sincere misunderstanding.” To postulate that Jesus erred is to destroy his authority. Secondly, if the Bible errs because it is human, the Holy Spirit, as supervisor of the work, must still be held responsible for all errors. Let us imagine an executive secretary, who’s boss instructs her to write a letter, giving such and such information, and when it is finished, to bring it to him for his signature. She writes the letter, couching it in her own style, her own vocabulary, and so on. She brings it to the boss, he reads it and signs it. When he puts his signature on it, he is endorsing all it contains. If there are errors in it, he was responsible to catch them and have them corrected before he signed it. He is responsible. In the same sense, the Holy Spirit “signed” the Scriptures. He is responsible for every error. But, though it might have been error through ignorance on the part of the human author, on the part of the Holy Spirit, it is a lie, for he is not ignorant. If the Holy Spirit lies, his authority is destroyed. He cannot be trusted.

Finally, if the Bible is Human and Divine, and the human element admits errors, who or what determines what the errors are, and what is not error? Perhaps it would be advocated that Scripture itself witnesses to the difference. But what principle of Scripture would indicate how to tell its errors from truth? And should we find such a principle, what is to guarantee that the principle itself is not part of the errant matter, and so invalid?

Perhaps we will allow science, in the broadest sense of that term, to determine what is error and what is not. But in that case, science, not the Bible, has become my final authority; and besides, science, or at least scientists, are not infallible. How do I know that they are not in error regarding which parts of Scripture err? Is the authority of fallible scientists adequate for spiritual matters? Will I place my soul’s eternal destiny in their hands? Perhaps you would say that we must use our own judgment as to where science, or the Scripture errs. But now, I am become my own authority. Where do I get my guidelines for discernment? I cannot get them from Scripture; that is what needs discerning. I am left with a subjective authority, and we have already seen that such an authority is totally inadequate,

The concept of accommodation as the errantist present it leaves us without an adequate authority. In the final analysis, it leaves me alone with myself. I cannot know for sure, the validity of anything outside myself.

Before discussing the “limited inerrancy” view, I want to deal briefly with a concept proposed by Berkouwer, that is closely allied with accommodation. It is the idea of “time-boundedness.”

Moreover, the Word finds its way through periods having their own social structures and “cultural patterns” -- customs and concepts relative to the particular period. The Word of God does not remain aloof from this, but is heard in the midst of it. As a result, the time-boundedness of certain admonitions and prohibitions is clear to all. Various statements by Paul regarding womanhood and marriage constitute some of the most discussed illustrations of this particular problem of time-boundness.

The obvious idea is that because the Word is “time-bound” it cannot give objective truth in regards to such things as womanhood. Scripture reflected, not God’s mind, but the mind of the men of the day, in certain things. He gives a further example of this argument.

One should also mention Paul’s ‘argument’ that man was not made from women, but woman from man, and that man is now born of woman (I Cor. 18:8-12). It is evident that one cannot make an inch of progress by speaking of the “correctness” of such words in the abstract.

The implication of what he is saying is clear. Creation is an out-modded, “time-bound” concept (of course God didn’t really make Eve from Adam’s rib. That is only a story, a legend of the Hebrews), and so we don’t believe it. Because Paul’s argument is based on this “time-bound” concept, then it is also time-bound, and we don’t believe it either. But the upshot of it all is, that I can refuse anything in Scripture on that basis, for all of it was written more than one thousand years ago. Who is to determine what has been affected by time, and what has not? Ultimately, I must determine that for myself, according to what seems reasonable to me, and that means that my authority is again subjective. But a subjective authority is not adequate for objective truth.

Berkouwer claims that Paul himself supports the “time-boundedness” idea.

Besides, we note how Paul himself gives an indication of this situation and time-boundedness He emphatically answers questions which have been sent to him (I Cor. 7:1), and he considers something to be right “in view of the impending distress” (I Cor. 7:26).

Actually, this argues against the concept, for the fact that Paul goes out of his way to express the “time-boundedness” of this situation indicates that other situations are not time-bound, else why make a special case of this one?

The second theory that we want to discuss, and perhaps the most popular, is the “limited inerrancy” theory. Benedict Spinoza taught the basic tenant of this view -- that the Bible is authoritative in religious matters only. He carried it further perhaps then modern day evangelicals would, for he said that the Bible has nothing to say to reason; science is for the intellect, religion is for the will. Perhaps he was more consistent than some of his modern counterparts.

Francis Schaeffer explains this view as follows:

The issue is whether the Bible gives propositional truth (that is, truth that may be stated in propositions) where it touches history and the cosmos, and this all the way back to the first eleven chapters of Genesis, or whether instead of that it is only meaningful where it touches that which is considered religious.

 

Harold Lindsell says it this way: “The sum of it is this: Whatever has to do with the gospel in the Bible is inspired and can be trusted; whatever does not have to do with the gospel has errors in it -- it is not inerrant.”

And Geisler quotes Davis: “Davis says, ‘there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible,’ and adds, ‘I have found none on matters of faith and practice.

It is a simple enough theory on the surface, and it looks as if it might do the job of providing an adequate authority without total inerrancy. But if we examine it closely, we find that it has serious problems.

The first serious difficulty is that we must open up the question of canonicity, at least in a practical way. Unless God inspires error, then what is erroneous is not inspired. Even if it is, it cannot stand on the same level as that which is inerrant. Gerstner points out:

We realize that some who disagree with inerrancy are claiming inspiration for parts of the Bible, the so-called salvation parts. Very well, but then they cannot title their position biblical authority but only partial biblical authority. To add insult to injury to God’s Word, they cannot tell precisely what parts of the Bible are inspired. They say “salvation parts,” but they do not tell us where to find these or how to separate them from the uninspired, errant, non-salvation parts.

In his evaluation of Rogers and McKim’s proposals, Woodbridge comments,

The author’s description of the Bible creates for them the same kind of dilemma that neo-orthodox scholars before them faced: how to distinguish the infallible “central saving message” from the errant “difficult surrounding material.” This is a critical problem because Christianity is grounded in the dirt and dust of human history. Salvation truths are planted in the Bible’s historical discourse about things that happened.

Further, R.C. Sproul says,

Evangelical advocates of limited inerrancy are not expected to embrace Bultmann’s mythical view of New Testament super-naturalism. But their method has no inherent safeguard from an arbitrary delimitation of the scope of the biblical canon.

This is a very serious problem, and the answers that are given only raise more problems, as we shall see.

The second major problem is the old problem of unity of truth. The point is that if truth is a unity, then it is all interrelated, and if I believe error in one field of truth, it will affect my beliefs in all areas. Montgomery puts it this ways:

Regardless of how carefully the view point is stated, it necessarily involves a dualism between what is infallibly reliable in the Bible and what is not;... Not only does the Bible itself offer a monistic philosophy, of knowledge, but this viewpoint is necessitated by the very nature of the fields of knowledge themselves. Only the naive specialist really believes that science is qualitatively different from geography, or geography from history, or history from ethics, or ethics from theology.

This point cannot be given up without ultimately giving up rationality. If there is no integral relation between the fields of truth, then truth is not a unity. Jesus made this point, by arguing moral principles on scientific fact.

In short, we cannot separate science and Scripture. When the Bible declares that Jesus was born of a virgin, then it affirms a biological truth as well as a spiritual one. And when Jesus answered the question about divorce by saying, “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the creator ‘made them male and female’” (Matt. 19:4), He not only laid down a moral principle but made a scientific pronouncement as well. The scientific cannot be separated from the spiritual without doing violence to the spiritual.

Montgomery supports this idea when he says,

“Kenotic” (limitation) theories will not solve this dilemma. A meaningful incarnation demands an incarnate God who knows what He is doing -- on earth as it is in heaven -- and tells the truth -- on earth as it is in heaven. This is precisely the Jesus of Gospel accounts: the One who knows that He existed before Abraham, who condemns lying as a mark of the devil, and who so unites reliability in secular” matters with “theological” reliability that He can say to Nicodemus (and to us), “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believed not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things.

This last point of Jesus to Nicodemus would seem to clinch the argument, except that if you believe in errancy, then Jesus may have been in error when he said it.

We must agree with Montgomery when he says further,

The point does not require belaboring~ For practical purposes we may -- perhaps we must -- distinguish between “historical ,“ “geographical,” and “theological” statements in Holy Writ; but these distinctions are no more inherent to reality than the divisions between hand and wrist or trunk and branches. It is thus logically impossible to argue for an alleged perfection resident “spiritually” in Scripture while admitting imperfections in Scriptural knowledge viewed from a “secular” standpoint. Fallibility in the latter necessitates fallibility in the former --and this leaves one incapable of affirming a single doctrinal or moral teaching of the Bible with finality.

Is it any wonder then that those, such as the Roman Catholic exegete Loisy, beginning with “relative inerrancy” (the Bible erroneous only in matters of science and history) and pursuing vigorously the implications of this viewpoint, ultimately conclude “that the principle of relative truth is in fact of universal application”? 

It should be obvious that if we do away with the unity of truth, we are left with a subjective authority; for if truths can contradict, I am left to choose between the contradictory truths. As Sproul says, “How do we escape dehistoricizing the gospel and relegating it to a level of supra-temporal existential ‘decision’?”

It cannot be done, and we are without an adequate authority.

The third serious problem of the limited inerrancy view is that it places the inerrant material in the Bible outside of any test --it cannot be verified or falsified -- and faith becomes blind; a leap in the dark. R.C. Sproul says of this problem,

To those critics outside the fellowship of evangelicals, the notion of “limited inerrancy” appears artificial and contrived. Limited inerrancy gets us off the apologetical hook by making us immune to religious-historical criticism. We can eat our cake and have it too. The gospel is preserved; and our faith and practice remains intact while we admit errors in matters of history and cosmology. We cannot believe the Bible concerning earthly things, but we stake our lives on what it says concerning heavenly things. That approach was totally abrogated by our Lord (John 3:12).

How do we explain and defend the idea that the Bible is divinely superintended in part of its content but not all of it? Which part is inspired? Why only the faith and practice parts? Again, which are the faith and practice parts? Can we not justly be accused of “weaseling” if we adopt such a view? We remove our faith from the arena of historical verification or falsification. This is a fatal blow for apologetics as the reasoned defense of Christianity.

To do this makes experience the only test of truth in the religious realm. And if we do this, what have we left? This move was foreseen by T.H. Huxley, as Schaeffer points out:

T.H. Huxley, the biologist, the friend of Darwin, the grandfather of Aldous and Julian Huxley, wrote in 1890 that he visualized the day not far hence in which faith would be separated from all fact, and especially all pre-Abrahamic history, and that faith would then go on triumphant forever. This is an amazing quote for 1890 before the birth of existential philosophy or existential theology. He indeed foresaw something clearly. I am sure that he and his friends considered this some kind of a joke, because they would have understood well that if faith is separated from fact and specifically pre-Abrahamic space-time history, it is only another form of what we today call a trip.

 

Schaeffer goes on to say:

 

What I quoted in chapter one from T.H. Huxley applies at specifically this place. J.S. Bezzant, an old-fashioned liberal at Cambridge University, in Objections to Christian Belief also puts his finger on the problem of those who separate the portions of Genesis, and the Bible as a whole, that speak of history and the cosmos from those that speak of religious matters. In general, Bezzant speaks against historic Christianity itself, but suddenly he swings around and speaks to neo-orthodoxy. And he says this: “When I am told that it is precisely its immunity from proof which secures the Christian proclamation from the charge of being mythological I reply that immunity from proof can ‘secure’ nothing whatever except immunity from proof, and call nonsense by its name.” The neo-orthodox position is that the Bible makes mistakes in the areas of history and science, but we are to believe it anyway in the religious areas. The result is that religious things simply become “truth” inside one’s head -- just as the drug experience or the Eastern religious experience is “truth” inside of one’s head.

The moment I make truth untestable, it becomes empirical, and it is therefore subjective. If I argue from experience, how can I refute someone elses' experience, which may be different from mine? If Christianity can be said to be true on the basis of experience, then so can Buddhism — for Buddhists also have experience. We have only a subjective authority, and that is not adequate.

It is interesting to note that God gave his people an objective, factual test by which to check the authority of all prophets (Deut. 18:22), and Paul based the truth of Christianity squarely on the historical fact of the resurrection (I Cor. 15:17).

The fourth serious difficulty is closely related to the first. It is simply this. How do I determine what is religious truth and what is not? Lindsell very clearly states the problem.

Once limited inerrancy is accepted, it places the Bible in the same category with every other book that has ever been written. Every book contains in it some things that are true. And what is true is inerrant. Only two things remain to be determined, once this position is acknowledged. The first is what proportion of the book is true and what proportion is false. It may be 90% false and 10% true; or it may be 90% true and 10% false. The second thing that needs to be determined is what parts of the book are true. Since the book contains both truth and falsehood, of necessity, other criteria outside of the book must be brought to bear upon it to determine what is false and what is true. Whatever the source of the other criteria, that becomes the judge of the book in question. Thus the book becomes subordinate to the standard against which it’s truth is determined and measured.

It is clear that the language of Scripture itself cannot tell us which parts are “faith end practice” parts, and which are not. James Barr, himself no friend of inerrancy, makes this plain.

In other words, the sacred tradition of the apostolic church is never purely “religious language,” and still less so is the Old Testament as the sacred tradition of Israel. But the non-religious language of the Bible is of Theological importance just as the religious language is.

If Scripture’s language itself cannot clear up the question, then we must bring an outside source to bear on it. Commenting further on the Rogers McKim proposals, Woodbridge says,

They do say, however, that “ancient principles must be applied using all that we can learn about language and culture from the human and social sciences of the twentieth century” (p. 461). What this means in practicality is that the infallible salvation material can shrink or expand in accordance with the latest givens in higher biblical criticism, cultural anthropology, or findings from other disciplines. As the changing “givens of modernity” set standards for understanding Scripture for Bultmann, so they do for Rogers and McKim. In a word, the believer is obliged to give up the doctrine of sola Scriptura as the Reformers perceived it because his or her reason influenced by shifting “givens” becomes another authority. Our reason helps us to determine an infallible canon within the Scripture. Ironically, then, Rogers and McKim’s proposal which they package as one of “faith” before “reason” cracks the door open to the radical criticism of the Bible. Their unqualified fideism concerning the role of the Holy Spirit in confirming the authority of Scripture to believers is matched by an apparent unqualified confidence in reason’s rights to superintend biblical studies.

It is obvious that if you judge the Bible by an outside source, and that source is fallible, then in the final analysis, your own mind is the ultimate authority. J.I. Packer says:

He who makes his own judgment his grounds for rejecting anything in the Bible thereby logically makes his own judgment, rather than trust in God’s truthfulness, his ground for accepting everything in the Bible that he does accept.

This is seen quite clearly in Geisler’s quote of Davis: “Davis says, ‘there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible,’ and adds, ‘I have found none on matters of faith and practice.’” The words ‘I have found none’ give him away. It shows that even in the areas of faith and practice, he is on the lookout for errors, showing that ultimately he judges all of Scripture by himself as standard. Such a standard is obviously subjective. It can be concluded then, that if inerrancy is limited, we must apply subjective authority in discovering what is true and what is false, and such authority is inadequate.

The fifth difficulty is what has been termed the “domino theory.” Sproul describes this problem very well.

Frequently this concern is dismissed out of hand as being so much alarmism. But our doctrine of Scripture is not a child’s game of dominoes. We know instances in which men have abandoned belief if full inerrancy but have remained substantially orthodox in the rest of their Theology. We are also aware of the sad instances in which full inerrancy is affirmed yet the substance of theology is corrupt. Inerrancy is no guarantee of Biblical orthodoxy. Yet even a cursory view of church history has shown some patterns of correlation between a weakening of Biblical authority and a serious defection regarding the Wesen of Christianity. The Wesen of nineteenth century liberalism is hardly the gospel evangelicals embrace.

We have already seen, within evangelical circles, a move from limited inerrancy to challenges of matters of faith and practice. When the apostle Paul is depicted as espousing two mutually contradictory views of the role of women in the church, we see a critique of apostolic teaching that does touch directly on the practice of the church.

Geisler points outs:

Davis says, “there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible” and adds, “I have found none on matters of faith and practice.” However he speaks confidently of Paul’s sexism and even of Jesus’ mistaken belief about the time of His second coming.

Surely these are matters of faith and practice. Sproul says:

In the hotly disputed issue of homosexuality we see denominational commissions not only supplementing biblical authority with corroborative evidence drawn from modern sources of medical psychological study but also “correcting” the biblical view by such secular authority.

Obviously the domino theory is not “alarmism.” It is a real danger. That this domino effect exists does not prove anything as regards inerrancy, but it is evidence of the subjective nature of biblical authority with limited inerrancy.

A third method of trying to secure adequate authority for the errancy position is an appeal to church history. Rogers and McKim’s book is an excellent example of this. We will not deal extensively with this attempt, as it is so obviously a weak one, but it does deserve some attention.

In the forward to Rogers and McKim’s book, this statement is made.

To take seriously once more Calvin’s teaching on the Holy Scripture and its roots in Christian history and in the Bible itself means to restore the place of the Holy Spirit, not only as the inspirer of real, living human authors, but as the inspirer too of real, living human interpreters.

In the text of the book, Rogers and McKim say, “Calvin did not wish to substitute theology for philosophy. Each had it’s own appropriate realm -- theology for matters of salvation and the life of faith, and philosophy for matters of worldly wisdom and practice.”

Obviously the writers believe that Calvin did not believe in the full inerrancy of Scripture. Example after example of this could be given. Now of course, it can be argued with a great deal of force that this premise is false, and that the historic position of the Christian church is inerrancy. That is Woodbridge’s position, in his reply to Rogers and McKim. And Berkouwer, himself an errantist, seems to lend credence to the idea that the church did believe in inerrancy when he says,

There can be no doubt that for a long time during church history certainty of faith was specifically linked to the trustworthiness of Holy Scripture as the Word of God. Undoubtedly, Herman Bavinck is referring to this when he writes that there is no doctrine “on which there is more unanimity than on that of Holy Scripture.” From its earliest days the church held that Scripture is not an imperfect, humanly untrustworthy book of various religious experiences, but one with a peculiar mystery, even though the nature of that mystery was often a point of controversy.

But supposing it should be proven that the reformers, and the church fathers did believe the Bible to be errant. That would not make it true, for the church is not infallible. If it were, we would not need Scripture. If orthodoxy is false, let us by all means forsake orthodoxy. The reformers did, when they defied the authority of Rome. So the argument from church history is an extremely weak one.

The fourth attempt at retaining authority while holding to an errant Scripture is the view of neo-orthodoxy. It may be true that evangelicals today do not hold to neo-orthodoxy, but many are proposing a doctrine of Scripture that has varying degrees of similarity to the neo-orthodox position on Scripture, and therefore, it must be examined.

Although Karl Barth is considered the father of neo-orthodoxy, we need to go back to Soren Kierkegaard to find it’s real roots, for neo-orthodoxy is a form of religious existentialism.

Of Kierkegaard’s philosophy Geisler says, “Truth is a subjective encounter with God for which one has no good reason but which one must appropriate by a passionate ‘leap’ of faith. Indeed, Kierkegaard taught that all truth is subjective. He elevated faith as opposed to reason, and taught that there must be no reason for faith, because faith with a factual basis isn’t really faith. He said that the true object of faith was a paradox, not a fact. Truth is a subjective experience.

Nygren says, “Lessing constantly emphasized the search for the truth rather than the results of the search,” and that this was with Kierkegaard’s approval.

We find in Barth the same concept. Barth also finds truth in paradox. For him, there is no certain “yes” or “no”, but rather truth is in the tension between the two; certainty then becomes the greatest enemy of truth, because that tension must be maintained if the search for truth is to go on. In other words, truth is not something that you can know , only an experience you have in the midst of the throes of the dilemma between “yes” and “no.” This philosophy carries into the Bible as well. To Barth, the Bible is “through and through dialectic.”

What then is the neo-orthodox idea of the Bible? To them the Bible is not the Word of God, but it witnesses too the Word of God. It is myth, which illustrates to mens' mind truth, but truth that is not true until he recognizes it as such. It is not propositional truth, but emotional truth.

Barth says:

The Bible is the literary monument of an ancient racial religion and of a Hellenistic cultus religion of the Near East. A human document like any other, it can lay no a priori dogmatic claim to special attention and consideration. This judgment, being announced by every tongue and believed in every territory, we may take for granted today.

To him, it was not God, but Moses who created the law. “Why was it that Moses was able to create a law which for purity and humanity puts us moderns only to shame?”

The Genesis accounts of creation “are not at all an academic account of our beginnings. They are a powerful sermon (almost a song) that celebrate God’s power and glory over all the elements and objects of the universe which Israel’s neighbors falsely worshiped.” He says further, “For the same reason the Biblical idea of the creation is never expended into a cosmogony. It is intended for a solemn marking of the distance between the cosmos and the Creator, and precisely not for a metaphysical explanation of the World.”

For Barth, God is so separate from his creation that there is no positive contact between the two. There is no possibility of a human and divine coming together, so the Bible is purely human. God cannot serve. He must rule. He must himself grasp, seize, manage, use. He can satisfy no other needs than his own. He is not in another world over against this one; he submerges all of this in the other. He is not a thing among other things, but the Wholly Other, the infinite aggregate of all merely relative others.”

God is so far removed that objective, propositional communication to us is impossible. Barth complains that “instead of being the document of the axiomatic, the Bible tends to become to us a document of objective historical information.”

The Bible is faulty in its morals:

Abraham, for instance, as the highest proof of his faith desires to sacrifice his son to God; Jacob wins the birthright by a refined deception of his blind father; Elijah slays the four hundred and fifty priests of Baal by the brook Kishon. Are these exactly praiseworthy examples?

Van Til tells us,

In practice for Brunner ... the Bible cannot teach anything about the “phenomenal world.” According to the critical principle adopted in earlier works and assumed in the present one, the phenomenal world is the world of impersonal forces. And revelation is said to deal with the world of “personal encounter”.

Packer says that “the Bible that is thought of as man’s testament of religious feeling, self-understanding, and ethical inklings is not really the same book as the Bible that is received as God’s testimony to himself,” expressing the neo-orthodox view as contrasted with his own.

So basically the Bible is a human book, faulty, inaccurate, mythological, not proposing propositional truth, a record of religious feelings. What then has become of God’s Word?

It would be false to say that the neo-orthodox do not believe that there are propositions in Scripture; only that the propositions are not true. Indeed with existentialism, a proposition cannot be true, because truth is experience. But the propositions may point to truth.

Propositions are merely pointers; and pointers can be effective whether they are true or false. Brunner states very clearly that a pointer need not be true. Even a false proposition points, because God is free from the limitations of abstract truth and can reveal himself in false statements as easily as in true.

For the neo-orthodox, “The word of God is within the Bible.” 

That is not to say that parts of the Bible are the Word of God, and parts of it are not. Rather all of the Bible, whether true or false, may be the Word of God, if it reveals God to me. If it does not, then it is not the Word of God. The Bible is not true, it becomes true. “With this conscious reservation, that we are saying something that we do not know, that is true only when it becomes true, let the page now be turned, and the Bible’s final suggestion be taken up (as a suggestion!).”

The Bible cannot command -- it is not knowable; it becomes true, but truth cannot be known. Indeed, one could almost say that in reality, the Word of God is not in the Bible, but rather in us, and the Bible stimulates us to find it there. The Word of God is a “Mysterium tremendum that draws the men of the Bible before our eyes out and on to the edge of all experience, thought, and action, to the edge of time and history, and impels them to attempt to leap off into the air, where obviously no man can stand.” Here is the existential leap of faith -- no knowing, only believing.

In fact, the Word of God, and God himself ultimately become one. “We are asked to drop all metaphysics once and for all. When speaking of God’s transcendence we are not to think of some being existing in self-contained form prior to his relation to man. God is identical with his revelation.”

Such is the Word of God to the neo-orthodox. It is vague, mysterious, unknowable, never certain. In the paradox of Scripture, in the midst of its absurdity, one finds God in experience, in the midst of tension. Such an experience cannot really be communicated, and indeed no two will be alike.

So where is biblical authority in all this? Why do we believe? That is the crucial question.

It must surely be obvious that in a system where truth is subjective, and any claim to certainty is regarded as “sin”, that all authority must be subjective.

We find men everywhere who desire to acknowledge as from God only such Scriptures as ‘find them,” -- who cast the clear objective enunciation of God’s will to the mercy of the currents of thought and feeling which sweep up and down in their own souls.

Custer says that “every man’s mind becomes his own authority.”

It is true that the illumination of the Holy Spirit is often appealed to, to deliver from subjectivism.

Let it be said that both positions [Roman Catholic and neo-orthodox] invoke the Holy Spirit, the former as author of both Scripture and tradition, the latter as illuminating mind and conscience to enable each individual to formulate his personal understanding of Christianity.

We will deal more with this later, but let it be said here that this sounds good -- if it would work. But many people who all claim to be illuminated by the Spirit have contradictory views. You may say that the other person is not being led by the Spirit, really, and is therefore wrong. But on what basis are you going to argue that? If only by your own illumination by the Spirit, how do you test your own? How do you know yours is not false, and his is not true? And you cannot argue from Scripture, because it is in error, and illumination is supposed to be what clears it up. You have to decide who’s illumination is true before you know what Scripture is true.

Of course, in neo-orthodoxy it really doesn’t matter; both may be correct, for truth is not certainty, but experience. In any case, authority is subjective and therefore not adequate.

The truth is that the neo-orthodox enterprise of trying to re-establish the authority of biblical teaching on salvation while rejecting biblical teaching on Scripture is inherently inconsistent and self-contradictory; thus, all versions of neo-orthodoxy, like all versions of liberalism before them, exhibit a built-in arbitrariness that it is not possible to eliminate.

Though evangelicals may not follow neo-orthodoxy in its extreme, their borrowing from it results in the same subjectivity. Berkeley Michelsen, writing in Biblical Authority says, “In whatever way man responds to God, man establishes God’s authority.” Surely that is saying essentially the same as Barth did? God has no authority objectively -- it is in the individual personal response that authority is born. Such authority can only be subjective. Rogers and Hubbard also seem very near neo-orthodoxy, with the idea that Scripture is not all the word of God and that the real truth of Scripture is unfalsifiable and is accepted by what amounts to a blind faith.

Perhaps it should be mentioned in passing that many inerrantists who continually find “guidance” in Scripture apart from it’s contextual meaning are practicing neo-orthodoxy. Such guidance is in an unfalsifiable position, being unrelated to the meaning of the text, and essentially amounts to a claim of direct revelation from God. We must be careful not to base our actions and beliefs on such purely subjective grounds as this.

There is no escape of subjectivism on any level of neo-orthodoxy, and thus it provides no adequate authority.

The fifth major area of attempt at securing authority without inerrancy is by substituting a new view of truth. We said at the beginning of this paper that the classic view of truth was a correspondence view, or non-contradiction. Such a view says that truth is what corresponds to reality. And of course, error is what does not correspond to reality. This means that truth is a characteristic of propositions, not of reality. Reality is, truth is a statement that is in line with that reality. Reality is neither true or false. A lie can be real, but it is not true. In this view, a true person is one who is trustworthy -- he always makes true statements.

There is a new view of truth being applied today. It is an intentionalist view of truth. In other words, a statement is true if it accomplishes what the author intended it to accomplish. Now in this case, a statement might be true even if some or all of its content does not correspond with reality. On the other hand, if it does not accomplish its purpose, it is false even if all the information in it is factually correct.

Also, by this view, a person could be regarded as true, if he lives up to someone’s intentions for him. Under this view, the Bible could be true, even if it has factually incorrect statements in it. Minor errors are immaterial, because they do not hinder the salvation message from getting across.

This appears like a very convenient view of truth for the errantist to adopt. Let’s examine it a little more closely, however, and see some of its implications.

In this view a lie is, if not impossible, at least nearly impossible to discover. If a person tells something that is not correct, with the intent to deceive, then he told the truth, if in fact he did deceive. Thus, to be adept at deceiving is virtuous, by this view, and a person who is a great deceiver is the most true. Satan becomes, then, nearly as true as God, for he is the great deceiver.

In this view also, the 9th commandment does not make sense. “Do not bear false witness” would have to mean that everything you say must accomplish its purpose. But surely that is partly relative to your neighbor? If you intend to inform him, and he is a real idiot, you might be a liar no matter how hard you try, and you could not help but break that commandment.

Though there may be a measure of value in the intention view of truth, it is obviously inadequate. Courts of justice are a farce, by this view.

Errantists generally do not take this view to its logical conclusion, but let’s notice how they do make use of it, Berkouwer comments thus:

For if instrumentality is related to this one central witness, then the term “continuity” can legitimately by used in the doctrine of the God-breathed Scripture without falling into dualism. For this is in harmony with the purpose of God-breathed Scripture. One can never have a clear conception of the latter when it is “formally” approached under the category of correctness or conformity with reality; it must be approached in direct relation to the nature and content of Scripture. For the purpose of the God-breathed Scripture is not at all to provide a scientific gnosis, in order to convey and increase human knowledge and wisdom; but to witness of the salvation of God unto faith. This approach does not mean to separate faith and knowledge. But the knowledge that is the unmistakable aim of Scripture is the knowledge of faith, which does not increase human wisdom, but is life eternal (Jn. 17:3).

He claims not to separate faith and knowledge. Yet such is the inevitable result of his view. If Scripture truth is governed by its purpose, then it is intentional, and is clearly a different kind of truth than scientific truth; or else, if scientific truth is also intentional, then it is meaningless. Dualism is not avoided.

He says later on,

It is not that Scripture offers us no information but that the nature of this information is unique. It is governed by the purpose of God’s revelation. The view of inspiration that forms the basis of the misunderstanding of this purpose considers “inerrancy” essential as a parallel characterization of reliability; that is a flight of fancy away from this purpose.

There is one more basic fallacy of this whole view. There are only two options. If Scripture must be interpreted according to its goal, then one must ask the question, “How do I find the goal.” If it is in Scripture, then I must interpret Scripture to find that goal, and at the same time interpret it according to that goal, which means that I must presuppose it. If I find the goal outside of Scripture, on the other hand, then I have an extra biblical authority over Scripture. There is no solution to this dilemma. Either way, my authority has become subjective.

At the same time, this view also destroys the unity of truth, as we have already intimated. Hubbard says, “Error theologically must mean that which leads us astray from the will of God or the knowledge of his truth.”

There is a definite discrepancy here between God’s truth, and other truth. If Jesus Christ is the Truth (John 14:6), and if God is the final absolute upon which all truth rests, the creator and sustainer, then surely all truth is his truth, and no truth is unimportant, or unrelated to any other truth. A scientist who discovers new truth about the universe is doing God’s will, as it was given to Adam. If we divide truth, we have lost our basis for rationality.

Obviously, as well, the intentionalists do not hold their view consistently. For example, Hubbard accused Lindsell of false statements about Fuller. But to do so, he had to revert to a correspondence view of truth. They use intention to interpret Scripture, but correspondence when criticizing.

At other times they use their theory well for their own convenience. Woodbridge says of Rogers and McKim, “The apologetic variety of history which Rogers and McKim write will make some professional historians wince.” Yet surely, manipulation of history is consistent with their view of truth. If it accomplishes its aim of persuading people to their view, it is true, whether it is correct or not, factually.

Another area of subjectivity in this view that should be mentioned is that it makes truth depend upon the receiver. It might be consistently argued, by intentionalism, that the Bible is true for such people as accept it, and false for such as refuse it.

There are two more methods of attempting to retain authority which we want to mention only briefly, and more study needs to be done into these two areas. The first is what I call “spiritualism.” We mentioned it once before in dealing with neo-orthodoxy. It is the view that the Holy Spirit enables us to discern between the truth and error of Scripture.

There is no doubt that illumination is a very important doctrine, and deserves far more attention than it gets. Packer says:

Bible commentaries, Bible classes, Bible lectures and courses, plus the church’s regular expository ministry, can give us fair certainty as to what scripture meant (and we should make full use of them to that end), but only through the Spirit’s illumination shall we be able to see how the teaching applies to us in our own situation.

But is it adequate to insure objective authority in the face of an errant Bible?

Hubbard thinks that it is. He says:

What proof did the prophets need to test whether God was speaking to them? Nothing but the power of that word itself. What proof did the Thessalonicans need that Paul’s gospel was true? Nothing but the conviction of God the Holy Spirit. What proof do we need to know whether the Bible is the Word of God? Nothing but the Spirit of God speaking to us in Scripture.

Actually, Hubbard’s examples are unfortunate, because although the prophets did not demand proof, God told the people not to believe them unless all that they said came to pass (Deut. 18:22), and Paul commended the Bereans, because they did not accept what he had to say without test, but being more noble than the Thessalonicans, they searched the Scripture to test the truth of Paul’s gospel. But Hubbard is not the only one who appeals to the Spirit.

Dr. Cremer was called upon to write the article “Inspiration” in the second edition of Herzog’s “realencyklopedia” (Vol. vi, sub. voc; pp. 745 seq.) which saw the light in 1880. In preparing this article he was led to take an entirely new view of the meaning of Qeopneustos, according to which it defines Scripture, in II Tim. iii. 16, not according to its origin, but according to its effect -- not as “inspired of God,” but as “inspiring its readers.”

Pinnock also seeks his authority in the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

I have come to place greater confidence in the power of the Spirit to make the Bible come alive for believers than I did before ... . Stress on the Spirit is noticeably lacking in the literature of inerrancy. I think it reveals a preoccupation with apologetic certainty....

If one is an errantist, then the only way to maintain authority is to assume that the Spirit enables us to differentiate between error and truth in Scripture. It is not enough to say that he helps us to understand it, for that does not deal with the problem. That the Spirit teaches us to understand it is the inerrantist position. There is no point in understanding error. Indeed, it cannot be understood, really, because error is unreasonable, and what is unreasonable cannot be understood.

The problem is, then, who’s witness of the Spirit is authoritative? Supposing two of us hold contradictory views as to what is error and what is true, both claiming the Spirit’s guidance. Unless you have something to test against, there is no reason for anybody to believe you before me. The authority is therefore subjective, and for that reason inadequate; it is inescapable.

The final attempt is that of direct revelation. This is at present uncommon among evangelicals, though it is the rule among cultists. But it is the next logical step from “spiritualism”; in fact, spiritualism is a disguised form of direct revelation. In spiritualism, the Spirit gives me direct revelation as to the true canon within the Bible. In direct revelation, I am not restricted to the Bible.

Pache says, ”Almost every heresy and sect has originated in a supposed revelation or a new experience on the part of its founder, something outside the strictly biblical framework.”

This is the ultimate result of acceptance of extra biblical and subjective authority. It is inadequate for precisely the same reasons as is spiritualism, so we will not bother to further refute it, but refer the reader back to that section.

 

To conclude our investigation of authority, let us note that without inerrancy, we have no adequate authority;

If it is finally settled that Scripture can err, then the church and its theologians will learn that no source and no standard remains to solve further doctrinal problems that may arise.

When we have no adequate authority, our doctrines have no secure base.

Where this [inerrancy] confession is not made, Scripture will not all be taken with all seriousness, elements of its teaching will inevitably be ignored, and the result, as Lindsell and Schaeffer with others correctly foresee, is bound to be a certain diminution of supernatural Christian faith -- as we have seen in the various versions of liberalism, neo-orthodoxy, and “biblical theology” and as we must now expect to see in new forms in tomorrow’s Roman Catholicism.

 

I am saying that whether it takes five years or fifty years any denomination or para-church group that forsakes inerrancy will end up shipwrecked. It is impossible to prevent the surrender of other important doctrinal teachings of the Word of God when Inerrancy is gone.

It may be argued by some that inerrancy does not provide any more adequate authority then does errancy.  Pinnock argues, with many others, that inerrancy is really not valid, since we all admit errors in our copies. Surely this argument can be seen through, since with the matter of the text we have variations, and we are quite aware what they are. Most of the text is quite certain.

The second argument is more difficult to refute; namely, that Scripture cannot be understood until it is interpreted, and that any interpretation will be subjective, since it will be colored by our background, education, etc. Now it may be true that interpretation has subjective elements in it, but it does not need to be wholly so. If language is valid, then much of Scripture will be obvious without much interpretation. The more precise the language, and the more objective it is, the less interpretation is involved. Also, we have something to test our interpretation against. We believe in the validity of reason. We recognize that man’s reason is fallen and so tainted. But though we may not be able, by reason, to understand infallibly, when the Holy Spirit points out inconsistency to us (error) in our interpretation, we can recognize it if we will. We have an objective base to argue from, whatever material we must deal with subjectively. We have an objective authority, infallible in all it touches, and therefore adequate.Inerrancy and. Authority

 

 

 

 

With all the talk of inerrancy, limited inerrancy, and various other  questions about the Bible today, it may sometimes be forgotten that what is actually at stake is the issue of authority. It is not a question of whether or not we have an authority. Montgomery, in writing about Romanism, says:

Surely some final authority must exist, and it would. appear that it now rests in the New Shape Roman theologian and. his community of like-minded. souls. There is thus more than irony in the definition of infallibility in Dominican Maurice Lelong’s “New Church Lexicon”: “The scandal of Vatican I. Infallibility can only be collective and. popular.” Inerrancy can no longer focus on one book or one man; it is now corporate and. democratic! Does this suggest the profound truth that no one ever dispenses with authority - one only relocates it?

Authority always exists. The question is, is my authority adequate? Where is it located?

I contend that, although any view of scripture allows for some kind of authority, without inerrancy there can be no adequate authority for the questions facing us.

This is not presented as a proof of inerrancy. It simply does not follow that because we need an adequate authority, therefore we must have it. If inerrancy of Scripture is false, my contention is that we do not have an adequate authority, and if we do not have an adequate authority, we will have to live without one - or we can commit suicide, and. if the Bible is errant, we have no authority great enough to tell us we must not do so.

In order to present my arguments clearly, it is important to the reader know where I am coming from. Many writers today do not begin by establishing their presuppositions, perhaps with the hope that the reader will think they don’t have any. But no one ever thinks without presuppositions, and for this reason, every argument is actually circular. The logical positivist, who claims to work inductively from primary information, still has to presuppose the validity of reason, or his senses.

Not only do all arguments carry presuppositions, but presuppositions are very difficult to refute, because before they can be falsified they must be given up. They cannot be proven or dis-proven.

That is not to say, however, that no argument can be persuasive. J. M. Frame brings this out clearly.

A “proof” of, say, the primacy of reason, can be highly persuasive and logically sound even though, at one level, circular. The circularity is rarely blatant; it lurks in the background.. One never says, “reason is true because reason says it is.” One says instead, “Reason is true because one must presuppose it even to deny it.” The second. argument is just as circular as the first. Both presuppose the validity of reason. But in the second argument the presupposition is implicit rather than explicit. And the second one is highly persuasive! The irrationalist cannot help but note that he is (in many cases) presenting his irrationalism in a highly rational way. He is trying to be more rational than the rationalist - a contradictory way to be! He must decide either to be a more consistent irrationalist (but note the paradox of that!) or to abandon his irrationalism. Of course, he might renounce consistency altogether, thus renouncing the presupposition of the argument. But the argument shows him vividly how hard it is to live without rationality. The argument is circular, but it draws some important facts to his attention. The argument is persuasive though circular because down deep in our hearts we know that we cannot live without reason.

 

Again he says:

A Christian Theist, while conceding that the argument for God’s existence is circular, nevertheless will claim that the argument is sound and persuasive, for he devoutly believes that his position is true, and he believes that it can be recognized clearly as such. He believes that God made man to think in terms of this circularity, rather than in terms of some competing circularity.”

While conceding that my arguments will be ultimately circular, and admitting my presuppositions right from the start, as I believe any honest writer ought to do, I still believe that the arguments presented will be reasonable and, hopefully, persuasive.

 

Basic presuppositions of this paper

 

Firstly, in this paper I am presupposing the validity of reason, or more specifically, the principle of non-contradiction. Actually, anyone who ever sits down to write, or even anyone who converses with anyone, has in practice presupposed. the validity of reason, for without reason, all communication is nonsense, and it is foolish to attempt it. It stands to reason that if my propositions can contradict reality, and if I can contradict myself, then in fact I will have communicated nothing to anyone; reason is therefore essential to communication.

Indeed, one cannot even do away with reason unreasonably. To deny reason, one must first assume it, as Frame pointed out above.

Secondly, I am presupposing the validity of language as a means of expressing truth.

There is a contemporary view of language that claims that language is incapable of conveying truth about God. Indeed, some linguists go so far as to say that language cannot be true at all, because of the discrepancy between the word and the object. But there is an immediate problem with this proposition. If we say, “Language cannot convey truth,” then we must ask, is that a true statement? If it is a true statement, then it is false, for it has just done what it said could not be done. And if it is false, on the other hand, then it is eliminated.

So language can convey truth; if it could not people would not talk, because it would be practically meaningless to do so. But what about God-talk? Is that, perhaps meaningless?

David Hume, the skeptical empiricist, was convinced that God-talk is non-sense. Geisler writes concerning his principle,

According to this principle, a statement, to be meaningful, must either be true by definition, (such as “all triangles have three sides”) or else it must be verifiable by one or more of the five senses. The principle, of course, proved to be too narrow (since it eliminated even some scientific statements) and had to be revised. But the conclusion reached by Ayer and other semantical atheists after him is still with us, namely that all God-talk is meaningless.”

 

This is also the basic idea of the logical positivist. But how do we answer it? It is true that much God’-talk cannot be verified, or falsified, by the senses. Is it therefore meaningless?

We must realize that God-talk is a language of presupposition. And as we said before, presupposition resists falsification. Indeed, the presuppositions of the logical positivist (the validity of logic, and the senses) cannot be empirically tested, and. so are non-sense by their own standard!

Obviously, God-talk is valid when viewed in that light. In fact, the idea that language is useless is based on the presupposition that language evolved. We presuppose, rather, that language was given to man by God, and is therefore meaningful. It cannot convey all there is to know about God, but it can express something about God validly and truthfully.

Even though the argument of this paper is not based on inerrancy, there can be no question that it is a presupposition that will color the content of the paper, and so I include it as my third presupposition. Some may feel that this is not truly a presupposition, since it seems to be arguable without circularity, but in reality it is not. Let us follow the argument closely. Warfield gives the basis of the doctrine clearly.

We believe this doctrine of the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures primarily because it is the doctrine which Christ and his apostles believed, and which they have taught to us. It may sometimes seem difficult to take our stand frankly by the side of Christ and his apostles. It will always be found safe.

In the same vein, Montgomery says, “Logically, if the Bible is not inerrant, though Jesus thought it was, He can hardly be the incarnate God He claimed to be and for whom the same claims are made by his apostles.”

I believe that the evidence from Scripture that Christ did believe in inerrancy has been adequately given by other writers, but we may cite, for example, Matt. 5:18, and Luke 14:17, or Matt. 22:43, demonstrating that Christ argued the very words of the Psalm. But one might say, “You are taking your evidence that Christ believed in inerrancy of Scripture from Scripture, and must therefore presuppose it’s inerrancy, since if it is not inerrant, then it may be in error at the points of Christ’s view of Scripture.” I must respond, that is correct. Thus, inerrancy is a presupposition, howbeit, I believe, a valid one.

Finally, a point that is more of a clarification than a presupposition. We must differentiate between a system of hermeneutics, and a statement regarding the nature of Scripture. Some, for example, have argued against inerrancy, saying that the Bible does not speak with scientific accuracy, i.e. that it often rounds numbers, etc. Now, that may be a sound principle of interpretation, or it may not, but it has nothing to say about whether the Bible is inerrant or not. In fact, it more supports inerrancy than otherwise. Inerrancy is a presupposition which hermeneutics must take into account. Parker expresses this very lucidly in his article, Encountering Present-day views of Scripture.

Though the confession of inerrancy does not help us to make the literary judgments that interpretation involves, it commits us in advance to harmonize and integrate all that we find Scripture teaching, without remainder, and so makes possible a theological grasp of Christianity that is altogether believing and altogether obedient.

There are other presuppositions that it might be useful to the reader to know, but I think most would be summed up adequately by saying that I hold a Theistic World View.

As to the scope of this paper, I am not attempting to defend the doctrine of inerrancy, or even of inspiration. I am only seeking to establish my thesis. I shall begin with a short historical analysis of the concept of truth, and show how views of truth have changed through the past centuries. I will then seek to give a method of building a view of truth, and for testing such views. I will show how the modern views of truth are inadequate, and. why the classic view of truth did not satisfy.

All this is to lay the groundwork for a discussion of authority, because authority is ultimately based on truth. I will describe two kinds of authority, showing the adequacy of one, and the inadequacy of the other.

I will then give the major views of Scripture that various errantists have used in an attempt to preserve an adequate authority for Scripture, and I will show why they cannot do so. In conclusion, I will show how inerrancy does provide an adequate authority.

 

I. A short historical analysis of the concept of truth

The classic view of truth is two-fold. First, truth cannot be contradictory (i.e. A cannot at the same time be non-A), and second, it must correspond with reality. This idea of truth assures two things. First, it assures that truth is a unity, for if a truth cannot be contradictory and still be true, then it follows that a truth from the realm of, say, physics cannot contradict a truth from the realm of biology, or one of them is not true. Or, a truth from the realm of history cannot contradict a truth from the realm of theology, or nature, and so on. So if the law of non-contradiction is valid, then there must be a unity to truth, and if the unifying factor can be discovered, all truth can be correlated.

Secondly, it assures that truth will be objective, for it must correspond to reality. That does not, of course, mean that every real proposition is true. A proposition may be a real proposition and yet not be in line with reality (i.e. a lie). Thus, a true proposition about a proposition that does not line up with reality is “that is a lie,” because that lines up with the reality of the falsity of the first proposition.

Neither does this do away with the validity of subjective or relative truth, because both are actually objective assessments of limited or comparative facts. For example, if a person says, “Spinach is good,” that subjective statement may be objectively true as it pertains to that person if in fact he really likes spinach, or thinks that spinach is good even if he does not like it. If so, it is a valid subjective truth, and it is also objectively true as regards that person.

The classical pagan philosophers were unable to correlate all truth, because they lacked. the unifying factor, i.e. the theistic God. The apostles possessed the unifying factor, and were able to build a valid epistemology that could account for both general principles and particular incidents. But with Thomas Aquinas that began to change. He believed that there was some good in the human intellect, that it was not totally depraved.

Bacon followed his lead. Geisler says of him,

After tearing down the “idols” of the old deductive method of discovering truth, Bacon argued that “the best demonstration by far is experience.” The inductive method, he said, is the true way to interpret nature. One can understand how Bacon could consider inductive logic a valid method for scientific inquiry, but he went far beyond reasonable bounds when he claimed universal applicability for his method.

This means that every general principle had to be derived from experience-able details. The fact that he was assuming a general principle a priori (i.e. that reason is capable of interpreting man’s experiences) did not seem to occur to him.

But what would he do with God? For God could not be discovered inductively. Again from Geisler:

For Bacon and even more clearly for Hobbes who followed him, the Bible serves a religious and evocative function -- it leads us to honor and obey God but does not make cognitive truth claims about God nor affirmations about the physical universe.

What Bacon and Hobbes had done, whether or not they realized it, was to deny either non-contradiction or else the truth of theology. Thus they set the groundwork for the destruction of the unity of truth. For Hobbes, religion is absurd, and must be accepted by blind faith. But why accept it if it is not true? And if it is true, you have two kinds of truth that are contradictory! Unity is destroyed, and essentially, non-contradiction is destroyed.

Immanuel Kant also contributed to the loss of unity. He was an agnostic, and taught that we cannot know, only perceive. We can know the “thing-to-me,” (phenomenal) but not the “thing-in-itself” (noumenal). This gulf is impassible by the nature of knowing (i.e. as Bacon taught it). Although he did not deny objective truth, he said we cannot know it. Facts have nothing to do with values, because facts are what we perceive, values are what are real. So perceptions, in his thinking, are objective, realities subjective.

Kierkegaard followed Kant, also making a fact/value dichotomy, but distinguishing between the factual or propositional and. the personal. The two were unrelated. God is beyond proof, the doctrines of God and of inspiration are unfalsifiable, because totally divorced from reason. God then becomes practically subjective. He can only be known by faith, whereas facts are known by reason. So we have the same dichotomy between theological Truth and. natural truth.

It is interesting that Rogers and McKim attribute this same dichotomy to Calvin:

Calvin did not wish to substitute theology for philosophy. Each had. its own appropriate realm -- theology for matters of salvation and the life of faith, and philosophy for matters of worldly wisdom and practice.

It is hard to conceive of Calvin as a modern man!

The third stage is a move to irrationality. Following Bacon’s lead, and moving from specifics to universals, man finally realized that he had to give up the rationality of faith, and theology, but not only that. Everything had to be irrational. Why? Because ideally all facts must be related to a system to be intelligib1e. But man found that facts are so varied that he could not find a system that would cover all of them. He despaired of ever doing so, and concluded that all facts are irrational and unrelated. Rationality is purely a subjective, pragmatic way of looking at things. It must be subjective, because (following Kant) I am the only person that I know exists. I perceive everyone else, and that means they are phenomenal and unknowable. And it must be pragmatic because “If factuality is non-rational, it is expected that rationality will be merely ‘practical’.” It is clear that we cannot live without reason, but if it is unreal, then it must be some make-believe practical system that we adopt to give ourselves security.

Not only does truth become subjective under irrationality, but the way is opened for humanism as well. If my own existence is the only thing I can be sure of, then I must make myself the ultimate reference point for interpreting my perceptions. As Van Til says,

That issue may be stated simply and comprehensively by saying that in the Christian view of things it is the self-contained God who is the final point of reference, while in the case of the modern view it is the would-be self-contained man who is the final point of reference in all interpretation.”

We will see later on what this does to authority.

 

II. An adequate test for systems of truth

If we are ever to arrive at some idea of what truth is, we must have a test by which we evaluate each view of truth.

The first thing we must not do is formulate a test that will, by definition, rule out any view of truth but what we want truth to be. For example, Hume argued against miracles by defining a miracle as something that never happens. If we accept that definition, then of course there are no miracles in reality, because as soon as something happens it is not a miracle, by the definition. Such an argument is not valid. It is a misuse of language.

An adequate view of truth must be able to account for everything; every fact, every observation, every feeling, every illusion. There must be nothing in the universe that is not covered by the system. The only alternative is to give up rationality, and we have shown in the introduction how difficult that is. We should not give it up until we have tried every possibility.

But how can we go about building a system of truth that will cover everything? I would like to suggest that we search for truth in the same way that the legendary Sherlock Holmes sought for criminals.

In the first place, we must not pretend to think without presuppositions. If we think we do, we are deceiving ourselves, and a self-deceived person will never arrive at truth. In fact, our system of truth, ultimately, is our presupposition. So what we really have to test are our presuppositions.

Secondly, we must not limit ourselves to any one way of thinking. Some thinkers have tried to reason from pure deduction, but have not been able to deduce all that is. Others, like Bacon, have tried to reason from induction only, but have not been able to put all their facts into any one system. But is it inconceivable that both methods of thinking could be used together? It ought to be attempted.

Thirdly, one must not rule out, a priori, any system of truth simply because it carries obligations with it, or would demand change of us. That is dishonesty.

How did Holmes operate? He took the facts that he had, and from them induced. several general theories. From these theories he deduced further facts that ought to exist if the theory were correct. Then he would begin to look for those facts. If they did not, in reality, exist, he tried a different theory, and tested it in the same way. At the same time, again inducing, if he discovered a fact that did not fit the theory, he altered or expanded the theory, or else dropped it, and continued on from there.

If we apply this method to modern systems of thought, we are faced with some grave difficulties. Both irrationality and subjectivism are out of line with our minds -- and our minds are part of what is there. Neither one can account for it. We find it impossible to think in a totally irrational manner. Both leave us with subjective truth, and. yet we cannot live with that either, for we are forever trying to persuade other people to think like we do, or at least thinking that they are wrong in the way they think. But if truth is subjective, then nobody is wrong, and. if that were true, we would not think that they are wrong. We are contradicting our presuppositions to suppose so.

Let us postulate a pantheistic world view. Can it account for all that is? Well, it says that all is unity. But is that all there is? Don’t we experience diversity? Ah, yes, but that appearance of diversity is illusion. But surely the illusion is something different from the reality? For if illusion and reality were the same thing, we would never know the difference. Pantheism cannot account for all there is.

Perhaps the universe is all chance. Will that explain all there is? From that premise, we would naturally expect the universe to be random. There is, in that view, no real cause and effect. Why should chance move in an orderly way? We never experience it so. But the world seems to be orderly, not random. And if all is chance, the universe should be impersonal. But that does not account for man, who at least appears to be personal. And if all is chance, why don’t we live that way? Why are we careful what we eat, what we do, etc? For if all is chance, then when I jump off a bridge, I never know if I will fall or not. Chance cannot account for all that is.

Perhaps someone would argue that the classic view of truth as objective and unified has not been able to explain all there is either. We would reply that those who did not find it adequate built it on too narrow a foundation. It can account for all there is, if one admits the possibility of a theistic God.

Working from the general hypothesis of a theistic God, one would expect order in the universe. And in fact, the universe seems to be orderly. One would expect some evidence of personality, and man seems to be personal. A correlation between man and his environment would be expected, and we find such a correlation. We would expect man to have a moral sensibility, and he does. We would. expect a correlation between man’s thoughts, and the place in which he lives, and man does tend to think in terms of correspondence.

We could go on and on. It is granted that an adequate application of this method is beyond the power of the pen, but it is also believed that if anyone will look honestly at the issue, he will see that as there are only a limited number of possibilities, and only one will account for all that is, it must be correct. And if it is, then we have preserved rationality -- unity and objectivity.

 

III. The question of authority

The next question confronting us is, what about authority? What is it? What constitutes an adequate authority?

The dictionary gives several definitions of the word. For example, “A citation (as from a book) used in defense or support of ones actions, opinions, or beliefs,” or “power to require and receive submission: the right to expect obedience.”

Both carry with them the idea of a control of actions and beliefs. Authority is the reason behind what I do and think. Authority is the “ought” of life. Perhaps authority is not necessary, in the ultimate sense of the word, but none the less, “no one ever dispenses with authority, one only relocates it.” Every man attempts always to show reasons why he is right, or why he did what he did, and if he does not, it is because he considers himself the ultimate authority.

J.I. Packer comments that “only truth can have final authority to determine belief and behavior.” The idea is that the “ought” says that I must bring my beliefs and behavior into line with what is true.

But why should I believe what is true? What is wrong with believing something that is false? To many, this question may seem absurd. Of course, it is stupid to deliberately believe a falsehood. But it is a legitimate question none the less. So again I ask, why? Because it is necessary for survival. I will not live long, physically if I refuse to live according to the physical reality of the universe. But even more important, I will not survive spiritually without living in harmony with the spiritual reality of the universe.

Not only does authority involve the demand that we line up with truth, it also involves how we discover truth. Everything we believe we believe on authority. We accept on authority that Julius Caesar was a Roman Emperor. Our authority is history, or more correctly, historians. Our authority for believing something may be another person, or a book, or our own senses, or our own reason. But we always believe by assuming the authority of our source of knowledge. We cannot know without authority.

 

Finally, authority must be as general as the class to which it refers. For example, human beings are all a part of the material universe. Therefore the realities of matter have authority over all mankind. Every man, to survive, must live in line with material reality. No one is exempt from the authority of the reality of gravity. Every unsupported body within the gravitational dominance of the earth falls toward the earth.

So a man needs two things; his authority must be able to tell him what reality is, and also how to live in harmony with the reality.

Authority is based on truth. Therefore since we have two basic concepts of truth, we have also two ideas of authority.

If, as many claim, truth is subjective, then authority is also subjective. The idea of subjective truth is based on the assumption that all that is real is in the subject. The material universe may not be real, nor other people either. All that I know is real is myself. Subjective authority says that the only reality I must line up with is myself, and that I myself can be trusted as the source of truth regarding myself. Now, if in fact reality only involves myself, then subjective authority is adequate. But if reality can apply to things other than myself, such authority is not adequate, because it does not account for all of reality. In fact, truth is not subjective, and this is illustrated by the fact that not even the subjectivists live as though it were. If they do, they don’t live. Even a subjectivist will get out of the way of a Mack truck, if he sees it. Why? Because he recognizes and submits to the objective authority of the laws of motion. Objective authority is adequate, for it accounts for the Mack truck. Subjective authority is not adequate, and the subject knows it.

Some would say that we need objective authority in the material realm, but that subjective authority is adequate in the spiritual realm.

More than a century ago, he [Schleiermacher] taught that the true source of theology was not the Bible but man’s religious consciousness. Thus the objective revelation of God in the Bible was set aside, and man’s subjective opinions were exalted to the position of authority.

Again, the only possible way to hold this is to assume that man is the only spiritual reality in the universe. If there is a God who is real, subjective authority cannot account for him.

It may be argued that objective authority is not adequate either, because it demands that I be in harmony with all of reality, and I cannot know all of reality. By this argument, I should not be surviving. This objection is invalid on two counts. Not all of reality is applicable to me directly and at all times. If there are no elephants where I live, then truths about elephants may not be applicable to me at present. Secondly, it does not take the theistic God into account. If he is the creator, then we can expect him to be in harmony with all of reality. And therefore, if we are in harmony with him, we will be in harmony with all of reality. That does not mean that we approve of all reality. The way to be in harmony with the reality of sin, for example, is to hate it, and expect it to be judged, finally.

In summary, subjective authority is not adequate, because it takes myself only into account. If there is any reality there, besides myself, subjective authority cannot account for it, and any attempt to do so is no more authoritative than anyone elses' attempt.

Objective authority, on the other hand, is adequate if the source is dependable and knowledgeable. Keep in mind that a source may be dependable and knowledgeable in a limited sphere, and so be adequate authority in that limited sphere, but remain an inadequate authority in a broader sphere. For example, our senses are a reliable source of objective authority, in a limited. sphere (the material) and when their frailties are taken into account (i.e. one must be tested against the other, for our senses may be deceiving; and their limits must be recognized). That the senses are a relatively objective authority is seen in the fact that by following them we manage to survive, whereas when they are impaired (i.e. as through alcohol consumption), non-survival increases. But our senses, on the other hand , are not an adequate objective authority for direct spiritual awareness.

 

 

IV. The search for authority in errancy

 

There are perhaps two main reasons why many evangelicals have repudiated the inerrancy of Scripture. The first is because of apparent internal contradictions. They believe that there are things in Scripture that do not harmonize; such as various dates, etc. The second reason is that they believe there are things in Scriptures that contradict the findings of science. Berkouwer tacitly admits this, when he says, “This has gone hand in hand with an increasing revulsion against ‘harmonism’ and ‘concordism’ phenomena which all too often advance a view of Scripture that demands too much of it.”

Stephen Davis says that the Bible should be authoritative for every Christian on all that it says on any subject until he comes across something which he judges that he, for good reasons, cannot accept.

What the errantists may not realize is that they had to shift their authority before they could assert that there are any errors in the Bible. If scripture is our absolute authority, then what contradicts it must be wrong, and contradictions within it must be apparent, and should be possible to harmonize with proper hermeneutics and further light. Only if I, a priori, admit that there are other authorities at least equal to Scripture, can I admit to errors in Scripture. This attitude toward Scripture is not in the least a necessary one. Better scholarship is constantly reducing the internal conflicts in Scripture, and science is a very unstable pillar to build one’s authority upon. It is continually changing its dogmas. For example, Scripture was once scoffed at for talking about the sun rising, (though every scientist, in everyday language, speaks of the sunrise and sunset). But now, with the advent of relativity, scientist say that it really doesn’t matter whether you speak of the sun going around the earth, or the earth around the sun; it all depends on your frame of reference, anyway. We have no way of knowing for sure which way it is. So old concepts of science are shown to be out of date, and if the Bible is allowed to change by every whim of science, it may be false today and true tomorrow.

Errantists have recognized that with their view of inspiration, Biblical authority was placed on a flimsy foundation, and have proposed a variety of theories to maintain the authority of an errant Scripture. But none of them are adequate to do so, as we shall see in the remainder of this paper.

In these systems there is bound to be overlap, as they all have some things in common, and a few things are common to all. This should be kept in mind as we proceed.

The first theory that we will examine is the theory of accommodation, or adaptation.

The basic idea of this theory is that God accommodated himself to humanity in the Scriptures in order to make them comprehensible to man, and in so doing, had to incorporate errors. It is often likened to a little child who’s father talks to him in a truncated language, accommodating himself to the child’s vocabulary and understanding. Pinnock uses this argument, claiming that it is not necessary for the Bible to be inerrant just because it is inspired, because God uses fallible human beings all the time to proclaim his word, and he accomplishes his purpose by it.

There are several assumptions of this view that should be pointed out. First, that the Bible errs because it presents things as they appear, rather than as they are. Second, the idea that if God accommodates himself to human language, he must err, because humans err. Thirdly, the idea that because the Bible emphasizes certain things, it may err in what it dots not emphasize. And finally, because it is written by men, it must err, because men err.

This view is often taken further, to say that God not only accommodated himself to human language, but to the Hebrew thought forms and to the contemporary culture as well.

An integral and practical part of the theory of accommodation is the separation of the “human” and “divine” elements of Scripture. Pinnock says, “Although Protestant orthodoxy confesses both the divine and the human element in the Bible, as it also does in Christology, it has been happier affirming its divine authority than admitting its human characteristics.” He says further, “The prime theological issue which became evident in our survey of options on biblical authority is the need to maintain with equal force both the humanity and the divinity of the word of Scripture.”

The idea of this dichotomy is that the Bible is the writing of men, written with their own peculiar literary style, their own backgrounds, viewpoints, world views, education, and so on as a foundation for that writing. It is contended that they must have erred, since their world view would be as erroneous as their contemporaries’.

 

In fact, there is a legitimate idea of accommodation. God did condescend to speak in human language. There is no other way for him to make himself intelligible to man. But it does not follow that language therefore must err, in that it is human. A father, in accommodating himself to a small child, does not necessarily misinform him, simply because he is speaking a child language. Although he may not be able to give comprehensive truth, in the sense of saying all that could be said, due to the child’s limited understanding, what he says can still be precise. Neither is strict precision always necessary, and when it is not needed lack of it is not a fault. I may, in everyday conversation, speak of the “five mile corner.” That is adequate and true, for in normal usage, nobody would expect me to say “five miles, three feet, four point zero zero one six three inches.” It would not mean anything to anyone anyway. Rounding is an accepted language procedure.

Young demonstrates that within the context of a Biblical view of truth there is room for crudity and roughness of literary style, including improper grammatical structure, variations of parallel accounts of events, discourses, etc. but not room for contradiction or deception. Phenomenological, anthropomorphic, hyperbolic, etc. forms of language do not negate or falsify truth.

Human language may err, but it does not necessarily do so. As to God accommodating himself to Hebrew thought forms, there is, of course, a nucleus of truth here. The Old Testament is written in Hebrew, in Hebrew style, and reflecting Hebrew thought. But although a language does reflect the thought forms of a culture, it is not bound to them. James Barr argues that it is an unsound linguistic procedure to make the supposed thought structure of a language group dictate the possible meanings of the words in that language. Although the language may reflect the thought patterns of a group, it can express truths not dominant in the particular thought pattern. It is true that to interpret correctly, we must be aware of such things, but that is hermeneutics. It does not follow that the Bible errs.

Again, it is argued that Scripture adapts to and reflects human culture, and. so must err. To put it more clearly, the Bible can be discounted where it touches on culture, because it was only reflecting the culture of the day, and that culture is not necessarily right. Of this idea Warfield says:

The fact is that the theory of ‘accommodation’ is presented by Mr. Stuart only to enable him the more easily to refuse to be bound by the apostolic teaching in this matter, and as such it has served him as a stepping stone by which he has attained to an even more drastic principle, on which he practically acts: that wherever the apostle can be shown to agree with their contemporaries, their teaching may be neglected.

It obviously does not follow that agreement with contemporaries indicates error, especially as it may be noticed that on many points the Bible counters current culture.

Perhaps the overall argument here is that the Bible, as a human book, must be subject to error, but that in it’s divine aspect, it is authoritative. This may sound reasonable, but three things need to be realized. First, because it is a human book, it does not necessarily err. Christ was human, and yet did not err. This we must hold to, for “had he been mistaken... the church could well ask whether any single teaching of Jesus on any subject (including the way of salvation) might not also reflect his sincere misunderstanding.” To postulate that Jesus erred is to destroy his authority. Secondly, if the Bible errs because it is human, the Holy Spirit, as supervisor of the work, must still be held responsible for all errors. Let us imagine an executive secretary, who’s boss instructs her to write a letter, giving such and such information, and when it is finished, to bring it to him for his signature. She writes the letter, couching it in her own style, her own vocabulary, and so on. She brings it to the boss, he reads it and signs it. When he puts his signature on it, he is endorsing all it contains. If there are errors in it, he was responsible to catch them and have them corrected before he signed it. He is responsible. In the same sense, the Holy Spirit “signed” the Scriptures. He is responsible for every error. But, though it might have been error through ignorance on the part of the human author, on the part of the Holy Spirit, it is a lie, for he is not ignorant. If the Holy Spirit lies, his authority is destroyed. He cannot be trusted.

Finally, if the Bible is Human and Divine, and the human element admits errors, who or what determines what the errors are, and what is not error? Perhaps it would be advocated that Scripture itself witnesses to the difference. But what principle of Scripture would indicate how to tell its errors from truth? And should we find such a principle, what is to guarantee that the principle itself is not part of the errant matter, and so invalid?

Perhaps we will allow science, in the broadest sense of that term, to determine what is error and what is not. But in that case, science, not the Bible, has become my final authority; and besides, science, or at least scientists, are not infallible. How do I know that they are not in error regarding which parts of Scripture err? Is the authority of fallible scientists adequate for spiritual matters? Will I place my soul’s eternal destiny in their hands? Perhaps you would say that we must use our own judgment as to where science, or the Scripture errs. But now, I am become my own authority. Where do I get my guidelines for discernment? I cannot get them from Scripture; that is what needs discerning. I am left with a subjective authority, and we have already seen that such an authority is totally inadequate,

The concept of accommodation as the errantist present it leaves us without an adequate authority. In the final analysis, it leaves me alone with myself. I cannot know for sure, the validity of anything outside myself.

Before discussing the “limited inerrancy” view, I want to deal briefly with a concept proposed by Berkouwer, that is closely allied with accommodation. It is the idea of “time-boundedness.”

Moreover, the Word finds its way through periods having their own social structures and “cultural patterns” -- customs and concepts relative to the particular period. The Word of God does not remain aloof from this, but is heard in the midst of it. As a result, the time-boundedness of certain admonitions and prohibitions is clear to all. Various statements by Paul regarding womanhood and marriage constitute some of the most discussed illustrations of this particular problem of time-boundness.

The obvious idea is that because the Word is “time-bound” it cannot give objective truth in regards to such things as womanhood. Scripture reflected, not God’s mind, but the mind of the men of the day, in certain things. He gives a further example of this argument.

One should also mention Paul’s ‘argument’ that man was not made from women, but woman from man, and that man is now born of woman (I Cor. 18:8-12). It is evident that one cannot make an inch of progress by speaking of the “correctness” of such words in the abstract.

The implication of what he is saying is clear. Creation is an out-modded, “time-bound” concept (of course God didn’t really make Eve from Adam’s rib. That is only a story, a legend of the Hebrews), and so we don’t believe it. Because Paul’s argument is based on this “time-bound” concept, then it is also time-bound, and we don’t believe it either. But the upshot of it all is, that I can refuse anything in Scripture on that basis, for all of it was written more than one thousand years ago. Who is to determine what has been affected by time, and what has not? Ultimately, I must determine that for myself, according to what seems reasonable to me, and that means that my authority is again subjective. But a subjective authority is not adequate for objective truth.

Berkouwer claims that Paul himself supports the “time-boundedness” idea.

Besides, we note how Paul himself gives an indication of this situation and time-boundedness He emphatically answers questions which have been sent to him (I Cor. 7:1), and he considers something to be right “in view of the impending distress” (I Cor. 7:26).

Actually, this argues against the concept, for the fact that Paul goes out of his way to express the “time-boundedness” of this situation indicates that other situations are not time-bound, else why make a special case of this one?

The second theory that we want to discuss, and perhaps the most popular, is the “limited inerrancy” theory. Benedict Spinoza taught the basic tenant of this view -- that the Bible is authoritative in religious matters only. He carried it further perhaps then modern day evangelicals would, for he said that the Bible has nothing to say to reason; science is for the intellect, religion is for the will. Perhaps he was more consistent than some of his modern counterparts.

Francis Schaeffer explains this view as follows:

The issue is whether the Bible gives propositional truth (that is, truth that may be stated in propositions) where it touches history and the cosmos, and this all the way back to the first eleven chapters of Genesis, or whether instead of that it is only meaningful where it touches that which is considered religious.

 

Harold Lindsell says it this way: “The sum of it is this: Whatever has to do with the gospel in the Bible is inspired and can be trusted; whatever does not have to do with the gospel has errors in it -- it is not inerrant.”

And Geisler quotes Davis: “Davis says, ‘there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible,’ and adds, ‘I have found none on matters of faith and practice.

It is a simple enough theory on the surface, and it looks as if it might do the job of providing an adequate authority without total inerrancy. But if we examine it closely, we find that it has serious problems.

The first serious difficulty is that we must open up the question of canonicity, at least in a practical way. Unless God inspires error, then what is erroneous is not inspired. Even if it is, it cannot stand on the same level as that which is inerrant. Gerstner points out:

We realize that some who disagree with inerrancy are claiming inspiration for parts of the Bible, the so-called salvation parts. Very well, but then they cannot title their position biblical authority but only partial biblical authority. To add insult to injury to God’s Word, they cannot tell precisely what parts of the Bible are inspired. They say “salvation parts,” but they do not tell us where to find these or how to separate them from the uninspired, errant, non-salvation parts.

In his evaluation of Rogers and McKim’s proposals, Woodbridge comments,

The author’s description of the Bible creates for them the same kind of dilemma that neo-orthodox scholars before them faced: how to distinguish the infallible “central saving message” from the errant “difficult surrounding material.” This is a critical problem because Christianity is grounded in the dirt and dust of human history. Salvation truths are planted in the Bible’s historical discourse about things that happened.

Further, R.C. Sproul says,

Evangelical advocates of limited inerrancy are not expected to embrace Bultmann’s mythical view of New Testament super-naturalism. But their method has no inherent safeguard from an arbitrary delimitation of the scope of the biblical canon.

This is a very serious problem, and the answers that are given only raise more problems, as we shall see.

The second major problem is the old problem of unity of truth. The point is that if truth is a unity, then it is all interrelated, and if I believe error in one field of truth, it will affect my beliefs in all areas. Montgomery puts it this ways:

Regardless of how carefully the view point is stated, it necessarily involves a dualism between what is infallibly reliable in the Bible and what is not;... Not only does the Bible itself offer a monistic philosophy, of knowledge, but this viewpoint is necessitated by the very nature of the fields of knowledge themselves. Only the naive specialist really believes that science is qualitatively different from geography, or geography from history, or history from ethics, or ethics from theology.

This point cannot be given up without ultimately giving up rationality. If there is no integral relation between the fields of truth, then truth is not a unity. Jesus made this point, by arguing moral principles on scientific fact.

In short, we cannot separate science and Scripture. When the Bible declares that Jesus was born of a virgin, then it affirms a biological truth as well as a spiritual one. And when Jesus answered the question about divorce by saying, “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the creator ‘made them male and female’” (Matt. 19:4), He not only laid down a moral principle but made a scientific pronouncement as well. The scientific cannot be separated from the spiritual without doing violence to the spiritual.

Montgomery supports this idea when he says,

“Kenotic” (limitation) theories will not solve this dilemma. A meaningful incarnation demands an incarnate God who knows what He is doing -- on earth as it is in heaven -- and tells the truth -- on earth as it is in heaven. This is precisely the Jesus of Gospel accounts: the One who knows that He existed before Abraham, who condemns lying as a mark of the devil, and who so unites reliability in secular” matters with “theological” reliability that He can say to Nicodemus (and to us), “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believed not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things.

This last point of Jesus to Nicodemus would seem to clinch the argument, except that if you believe in errancy, then Jesus may have been in error when he said it.

We must agree with Montgomery when he says further,

The point does not require belaboring~ For practical purposes we may -- perhaps we must -- distinguish between “historical ,“ “geographical,” and “theological” statements in Holy Writ; but these distinctions are no more inherent to reality than the divisions between hand and wrist or trunk and branches. It is thus logically impossible to argue for an alleged perfection resident “spiritually” in Scripture while admitting imperfections in Scriptural knowledge viewed from a “secular” standpoint. Fallibility in the latter necessitates fallibility in the former --and this leaves one incapable of affirming a single doctrinal or moral teaching of the Bible with finality.

Is it any wonder then that those, such as the Roman Catholic exegete Loisy, beginning with “relative inerrancy” (the Bible erroneous only in matters of science and history) and pursuing vigorously the implications of this viewpoint, ultimately conclude “that the principle of relative truth is in fact of universal application”? 

It should be obvious that if we do away with the unity of truth, we are left with a subjective authority; for if truths can contradict, I am left to choose between the contradictory truths. As Sproul says, “How do we escape dehistoricizing the gospel and relegating it to a level of supra-temporal existential ‘decision’?”

It cannot be done, and we are without an adequate authority.

The third serious problem of the limited inerrancy view is that it places the inerrant material in the Bible outside of any test --it cannot be verified or falsified -- and faith becomes blind; a leap in the dark. R.C. Sproul says of this problem,

To those critics outside the fellowship of evangelicals, the notion of “limited inerrancy” appears artificial and contrived. Limited inerrancy gets us off the apologetical hook by making us immune to religious-historical criticism. We can eat our cake and have it too. The gospel is preserved; and our faith and practice remains intact while we admit errors in matters of history and cosmology. We cannot believe the Bible concerning earthly things, but we stake our lives on what it says concerning heavenly things. That approach was totally abrogated by our Lord (John 3:12).

How do we explain and defend the idea that the Bible is divinely superintended in part of its content but not all of it? Which part is inspired? Why only the faith and practice parts? Again, which are the faith and practice parts? Can we not justly be accused of “weaseling” if we adopt such a view? We remove our faith from the arena of historical verification or falsification. This is a fatal blow for apologetics as the reasoned defense of Christianity.

To do this makes experience the only test of truth in the religious realm. And if we do this, what have we left? This move was foreseen by T.H. Huxley, as Schaeffer points out:

T.H. Huxley, the biologist, the friend of Darwin, the grandfather of Aldous and Julian Huxley, wrote in 1890 that he visualized the day not far hence in which faith would be separated from all fact, and especially all pre-Abrahamic history, and that faith would then go on triumphant forever. This is an amazing quote for 1890 before the birth of existential philosophy or existential theology. He indeed foresaw something clearly. I am sure that he and his friends considered this some kind of a joke, because they would have understood well that if faith is separated from fact and specifically pre-Abrahamic space-time history, it is only another form of what we today call a trip.

 

Schaeffer goes on to say:

 

What I quoted in chapter one from T.H. Huxley applies at specifically this place. J.S. Bezzant, an old-fashioned liberal at Cambridge University, in Objections to Christian Belief also puts his finger on the problem of those who separate the portions of Genesis, and the Bible as a whole, that speak of history and the cosmos from those that speak of religious matters. In general, Bezzant speaks against historic Christianity itself, but suddenly he swings around and speaks to neo-orthodoxy. And he says this: “When I am told that it is precisely its immunity from proof which secures the Christian proclamation from the charge of being mythological I reply that immunity from proof can ‘secure’ nothing whatever except immunity from proof, and call nonsense by its name.” The neo-orthodox position is that the Bible makes mistakes in the areas of history and science, but we are to believe it anyway in the religious areas. The result is that religious things simply become “truth” inside one’s head -- just as the drug experience or the Eastern religious experience is “truth” inside of one’s head.

The moment I make truth untestable, it becomes empirical, and it is therefore subjective. If I argue from experience, how can I refute someone elses' experience, which may be different from mine? If Christianity can be said to be true on the basis of experience, then so can Buddhism — for Buddhists also have experience. We have only a subjective authority, and that is not adequate.

It is interesting to note that God gave his people an objective, factual test by which to check the authority of all prophets (Deut. 18:22), and Paul based the truth of Christianity squarely on the historical fact of the resurrection (I Cor. 15:17).

The fourth serious difficulty is closely related to the first. It is simply this. How do I determine what is religious truth and what is not? Lindsell very clearly states the problem.

Once limited inerrancy is accepted, it places the Bible in the same category with every other book that has ever been written. Every book contains in it some things that are true. And what is true is inerrant. Only two things remain to be determined, once this position is acknowledged. The first is what proportion of the book is true and what proportion is false. It may be 90% false and 10% true; or it may be 90% true and 10% false. The second thing that needs to be determined is what parts of the book are true. Since the book contains both truth and falsehood, of necessity, other criteria outside of the book must be brought to bear upon it to determine what is false and what is true. Whatever the source of the other criteria, that becomes the judge of the book in question. Thus the book becomes subordinate to the standard against which it’s truth is determined and measured.

It is clear that the language of Scripture itself cannot tell us which parts are “faith end practice” parts, and which are not. James Barr, himself no friend of inerrancy, makes this plain.

In other words, the sacred tradition of the apostolic church is never purely “religious language,” and still less so is the Old Testament as the sacred tradition of Israel. But the non-religious language of the Bible is of Theological importance just as the religious language is.

If Scripture’s language itself cannot clear up the question, then we must bring an outside source to bear on it. Commenting further on the Rogers McKim proposals, Woodbridge says,

They do say, however, that “ancient principles must be applied using all that we can learn about language and culture from the human and social sciences of the twentieth century” (p. 461). What this means in practicality is that the infallible salvation material can shrink or expand in accordance with the latest givens in higher biblical criticism, cultural anthropology, or findings from other disciplines. As the changing “givens of modernity” set standards for understanding Scripture for Bultmann, so they do for Rogers and McKim. In a word, the believer is obliged to give up the doctrine of sola Scriptura as the Reformers perceived it because his or her reason influenced by shifting “givens” becomes another authority. Our reason helps us to determine an infallible canon within the Scripture. Ironically, then, Rogers and McKim’s proposal which they package as one of “faith” before “reason” cracks the door open to the radical criticism of the Bible. Their unqualified fideism concerning the role of the Holy Spirit in confirming the authority of Scripture to believers is matched by an apparent unqualified confidence in reason’s rights to superintend biblical studies.

It is obvious that if you judge the Bible by an outside source, and that source is fallible, then in the final analysis, your own mind is the ultimate authority. J.I. Packer says:

He who makes his own judgment his grounds for rejecting anything in the Bible thereby logically makes his own judgment, rather than trust in God’s truthfulness, his ground for accepting everything in the Bible that he does accept.

This is seen quite clearly in Geisler’s quote of Davis: “Davis says, ‘there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible,’ and adds, ‘I have found none on matters of faith and practice.’” The words ‘I have found none’ give him away. It shows that even in the areas of faith and practice, he is on the lookout for errors, showing that ultimately he judges all of Scripture by himself as standard. Such a standard is obviously subjective. It can be concluded then, that if inerrancy is limited, we must apply subjective authority in discovering what is true and what is false, and such authority is inadequate.

The fifth difficulty is what has been termed the “domino theory.” Sproul describes this problem very well.

Frequently this concern is dismissed out of hand as being so much alarmism. But our doctrine of Scripture is not a child’s game of dominoes. We know instances in which men have abandoned belief if full inerrancy but have remained substantially orthodox in the rest of their Theology. We are also aware of the sad instances in which full inerrancy is affirmed yet the substance of theology is corrupt. Inerrancy is no guarantee of Biblical orthodoxy. Yet even a cursory view of church history has shown some patterns of correlation between a weakening of Biblical authority and a serious defection regarding the Wesen of Christianity. The Wesen of nineteenth century liberalism is hardly the gospel evangelicals embrace.

We have already seen, within evangelical circles, a move from limited inerrancy to challenges of matters of faith and practice. When the apostle Paul is depicted as espousing two mutually contradictory views of the role of women in the church, we see a critique of apostolic teaching that does touch directly on the practice of the church.

Geisler points outs:

Davis says, “there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible” and adds, “I have found none on matters of faith and practice.” However he speaks confidently of Paul’s sexism and even of Jesus’ mistaken belief about the time of His second coming.

Surely these are matters of faith and practice. Sproul says:

In the hotly disputed issue of homosexuality we see denominational commissions not only supplementing biblical authority with corroborative evidence drawn from modern sources of medical psychological study but also “correcting” the biblical view by such secular authority.

Obviously the domino theory is not “alarmism.” It is a real danger. That this domino effect exists does not prove anything as regards inerrancy, but it is evidence of the subjective nature of biblical authority with limited inerrancy.

A third method of trying to secure adequate authority for the errancy position is an appeal to church history. Rogers and McKim’s book is an excellent example of this. We will not deal extensively with this attempt, as it is so obviously a weak one, but it does deserve some attention.

In the forward to Rogers and McKim’s book, this statement is made.

To take seriously once more Calvin’s teaching on the Holy Scripture and its roots in Christian history and in the Bible itself means to restore the place of the Holy Spirit, not only as the inspirer of real, living human authors, but as the inspirer too of real, living human interpreters.

In the text of the book, Rogers and McKim say, “Calvin did not wish to substitute theology for philosophy. Each had it’s own appropriate realm -- theology for matters of salvation and the life of faith, and philosophy for matters of worldly wisdom and practice.”

Obviously the writers believe that Calvin did not believe in the full inerrancy of Scripture. Example after example of this could be given. Now of course, it can be argued with a great deal of force that this premise is false, and that the historic position of the Christian church is inerrancy. That is Woodbridge’s position, in his reply to Rogers and McKim. And Berkouwer, himself an errantist, seems to lend credence to the idea that the church did believe in inerrancy when he says,

There can be no doubt that for a long time during church history certainty of faith was specifically linked to the trustworthiness of Holy Scripture as the Word of God. Undoubtedly, Herman Bavinck is referring to this when he writes that there is no doctrine “on which there is more unanimity than on that of Holy Scripture.” From its earliest days the church held that Scripture is not an imperfect, humanly untrustworthy book of various religious experiences, but one with a peculiar mystery, even though the nature of that mystery was often a point of controversy.

But supposing it should be proven that the reformers, and the church fathers did believe the Bible to be errant. That would not make it true, for the church is not infallible. If it were, we would not need Scripture. If orthodoxy is false, let us by all means forsake orthodoxy. The reformers did, when they defied the authority of Rome. So the argument from church history is an extremely weak one.

The fourth attempt at retaining authority while holding to an errant Scripture is the view of neo-orthodoxy. It may be true that evangelicals today do not hold to neo-orthodoxy, but many are proposing a doctrine of Scripture that has varying degrees of similarity to the neo-orthodox position on Scripture, and therefore, it must be examined.

Although Karl Barth is considered the father of neo-orthodoxy, we need to go back to Soren Kierkegaard to find it’s real roots, for neo-orthodoxy is a form of religious existentialism.

Of Kierkegaard’s philosophy Geisler says, “Truth is a subjective encounter with God for which one has no good reason but which one must appropriate by a passionate ‘leap’ of faith. Indeed, Kierkegaard taught that all truth is subjective. He elevated faith as opposed to reason, and taught that there must be no reason for faith, because faith with a factual basis isn’t really faith. He said that the true object of faith was a paradox, not a fact. Truth is a subjective experience.

Nygren says, “Lessing constantly emphasized the search for the truth rather than the results of the search,” and that this was with Kierkegaard’s approval.

We find in Barth the same concept. Barth also finds truth in paradox. For him, there is no certain “yes” or “no”, but rather truth is in the tension between the two; certainty then becomes the greatest enemy of truth, because that tension must be maintained if the search for truth is to go on. In other words, truth is not something that you can know , only an experience you have in the midst of the throes of the dilemma between “yes” and “no.” This philosophy carries into the Bible as well. To Barth, the Bible is “through and through dialectic.”

What then is the neo-orthodox idea of the Bible? To them the Bible is not the Word of God, but it witnesses too the Word of God. It is myth, which illustrates to mens' mind truth, but truth that is not true until he recognizes it as such. It is not propositional truth, but emotional truth.

Barth says:

The Bible is the literary monument of an ancient racial religion and of a Hellenistic cultus religion of the Near East. A human document like any other, it can lay no a priori dogmatic claim to special attention and consideration. This judgment, being announced by every tongue and believed in every territory, we may take for granted today.

To him, it was not God, but Moses who created the law. “Why was it that Moses was able to create a law which for purity and humanity puts us moderns only to shame?”

The Genesis accounts of creation “are not at all an academic account of our beginnings. They are a powerful sermon (almost a song) that celebrate God’s power and glory over all the elements and objects of the universe which Israel’s neighbors falsely worshiped.” He says further, “For the same reason the Biblical idea of the creation is never expended into a cosmogony. It is intended for a solemn marking of the distance between the cosmos and the Creator, and precisely not for a metaphysical explanation of the World.”

For Barth, God is so separate from his creation that there is no positive contact between the two. There is no possibility of a human and divine coming together, so the Bible is purely human. God cannot serve. He must rule. He must himself grasp, seize, manage, use. He can satisfy no other needs than his own. He is not in another world over against this one; he submerges all of this in the other. He is not a thing among other things, but the Wholly Other, the infinite aggregate of all merely relative others.”

God is so far removed that objective, propositional communication to us is impossible. Barth complains that “instead of being the document of the axiomatic, the Bible tends to become to us a document of objective historical information.”

The Bible is faulty in its morals:

Abraham, for instance, as the highest proof of his faith desires to sacrifice his son to God; Jacob wins the birthright by a refined deception of his blind father; Elijah slays the four hundred and fifty priests of Baal by the brook Kishon. Are these exactly praiseworthy examples?

Van Til tells us,

In practice for Brunner ... the Bible cannot teach anything about the “phenomenal world.” According to the critical principle adopted in earlier works and assumed in the present one, the phenomenal world is the world of impersonal forces. And revelation is said to deal with the world of “personal encounter”.

Packer says that “the Bible that is thought of as man’s testament of religious feeling, self-understanding, and ethical inklings is not really the same book as the Bible that is received as God’s testimony to himself,” expressing the neo-orthodox view as contrasted with his own.

So basically the Bible is a human book, faulty, inaccurate, mythological, not proposing propositional truth, a record of religious feelings. What then has become of God’s Word?

It would be false to say that the neo-orthodox do not believe that there are propositions in Scripture; only that the propositions are not true. Indeed with existentialism, a proposition cannot be true, because truth is experience. But the propositions may point to truth.

Propositions are merely pointers; and pointers can be effective whether they are true or false. Brunner states very clearly that a pointer need not be true. Even a false proposition points, because God is free from the limitations of abstract truth and can reveal himself in false statements as easily as in true.

For the neo-orthodox, “The word of God is within the Bible.” 

That is not to say that parts of the Bible are the Word of God, and parts of it are not. Rather all of the Bible, whether true or false, may be the Word of God, if it reveals God to me. If it does not, then it is not the Word of God. The Bible is not true, it becomes true. “With this conscious reservation, that we are saying something that we do not know, that is true only when it becomes true, let the page now be turned, and the Bible’s final suggestion be taken up (as a suggestion!).”

The Bible cannot command -- it is not knowable; it becomes true, but truth cannot be known. Indeed, one could almost say that in reality, the Word of God is not in the Bible, but rather in us, and the Bible stimulates us to find it there. The Word of God is a “Mysterium tremendum that draws the men of the Bible before our eyes out and on to the edge of all experience, thought, and action, to the edge of time and history, and impels them to attempt to leap off into the air, where obviously no man can stand.” Here is the existential leap of faith -- no knowing, only believing.

In fact, the Word of God, and God himself ultimately become one. “We are asked to drop all metaphysics once and for all. When speaking of God’s transcendence we are not to think of some being existing in self-contained form prior to his relation to man. God is identical with his revelation.”

Such is the Word of God to the neo-orthodox. It is vague, mysterious, unknowable, never certain. In the paradox of Scripture, in the midst of its absurdity, one finds God in experience, in the midst of tension. Such an experience cannot really be communicated, and indeed no two will be alike.

So where is biblical authority in all this? Why do we believe? That is the crucial question.

It must surely be obvious that in a system where truth is subjective, and any claim to certainty is regarded as “sin”, that all authority must be subjective.

We find men everywhere who desire to acknowledge as from God only such Scriptures as ‘find them,” -- who cast the clear objective enunciation of God’s will to the mercy of the currents of thought and feeling which sweep up and down in their own souls.

Custer says that “every man’s mind becomes his own authority.”

It is true that the illumination of the Holy Spirit is often appealed to, to deliver from subjectivism.

Let it be said that both positions [Roman Catholic and neo-orthodox] invoke the Holy Spirit, the former as author of both Scripture and tradition, the latter as illuminating mind and conscience to enable each individual to formulate his personal understanding of Christianity.

We will deal more with this later, but let it be said here that this sounds good -- if it would work. But many people who all claim to be illuminated by the Spirit have contradictory views. You may say that the other person is not being led by the Spirit, really, and is therefore wrong. But on what basis are you going to argue that? If only by your own illumination by the Spirit, how do you test your own? How do you know yours is not false, and his is not true? And you cannot argue from Scripture, because it is in error, and illumination is supposed to be what clears it up. You have to decide who’s illumination is true before you know what Scripture is true.

Of course, in neo-orthodoxy it really doesn’t matter; both may be correct, for truth is not certainty, but experience. In any case, authority is subjective and therefore not adequate.

The truth is that the neo-orthodox enterprise of trying to re-establish the authority of biblical teaching on salvation while rejecting biblical teaching on Scripture is inherently inconsistent and self-contradictory; thus, all versions of neo-orthodoxy, like all versions of liberalism before them, exhibit a built-in arbitrariness that it is not possible to eliminate.

Though evangelicals may not follow neo-orthodoxy in its extreme, their borrowing from it results in the same subjectivity. Berkeley Michelsen, writing in Biblical Authority says, “In whatever way man responds to God, man establishes God’s authority.” Surely that is saying essentially the same as Barth did? God has no authority objectively -- it is in the individual personal response that authority is born. Such authority can only be subjective. Rogers and Hubbard also seem very near neo-orthodoxy, with the idea that Scripture is not all the word of God and that the real truth of Scripture is unfalsifiable and is accepted by what amounts to a blind faith.

Perhaps it should be mentioned in passing that many inerrantists who continually find “guidance” in Scripture apart from it’s contextual meaning are practicing neo-orthodoxy. Such guidance is in an unfalsifiable position, being unrelated to the meaning of the text, and essentially amounts to a claim of direct revelation from God. We must be careful not to base our actions and beliefs on such purely subjective grounds as this.

There is no escape of subjectivism on any level of neo-orthodoxy, and thus it provides no adequate authority.

The fifth major area of attempt at securing authority without inerrancy is by substituting a new view of truth. We said at the beginning of this paper that the classic view of truth was a correspondence view, or non-contradiction. Such a view says that truth is what corresponds to reality. And of course, error is what does not correspond to reality. This means that truth is a characteristic of propositions, not of reality. Reality is, truth is a statement that is in line with that reality. Reality is neither true or false. A lie can be real, but it is not true. In this view, a true person is one who is trustworthy -- he always makes true statements.

There is a new view of truth being applied today. It is an intentionalist view of truth. In other words, a statement is true if it accomplishes what the author intended it to accomplish. Now in this case, a statement might be true even if some or all of its content does not correspond with reality. On the other hand, if it does not accomplish its purpose, it is false even if all the information in it is factually correct.

Also, by this view, a person could be regarded as true, if he lives up to someone’s intentions for him. Under this view, the Bible could be true, even if it has factually incorrect statements in it. Minor errors are immaterial, because they do not hinder the salvation message from getting across.

This appears like a very convenient view of truth for the errantist to adopt. Let’s examine it a little more closely, however, and see some of its implications.

In this view a lie is, if not impossible, at least nearly impossible to discover. If a person tells something that is not correct, with the intent to deceive, then he told the truth, if in fact he did deceive. Thus, to be adept at deceiving is virtuous, by this view, and a person who is a great deceiver is the most true. Satan becomes, then, nearly as true as God, for he is the great deceiver.

In this view also, the 9th commandment does not make sense. “Do not bear false witness” would have to mean that everything you say must accomplish its purpose. But surely that is partly relative to your neighbor? If you intend to inform him, and he is a real idiot, you might be a liar no matter how hard you try, and you could not help but break that commandment.

Though there may be a measure of value in the intention view of truth, it is obviously inadequate. Courts of justice are a farce, by this view.

Errantists generally do not take this view to its logical conclusion, but let’s notice how they do make use of it, Berkouwer comments thus:

For if instrumentality is related to this one central witness, then the term “continuity” can legitimately by used in the doctrine of the God-breathed Scripture without falling into dualism. For this is in harmony with the purpose of God-breathed Scripture. One can never have a clear conception of the latter when it is “formally” approached under the category of correctness or conformity with reality; it must be approached in direct relation to the nature and content of Scripture. For the purpose of the God-breathed Scripture is not at all to provide a scientific gnosis, in order to convey and increase human knowledge and wisdom; but to witness of the salvation of God unto faith. This approach does not mean to separate faith and knowledge. But the knowledge that is the unmistakable aim of Scripture is the knowledge of faith, which does not increase human wisdom, but is life eternal (Jn. 17:3).

He claims not to separate faith and knowledge. Yet such is the inevitable result of his view. If Scripture truth is governed by its purpose, then it is intentional, and is clearly a different kind of truth than scientific truth; or else, if scientific truth is also intentional, then it is meaningless. Dualism is not avoided.

He says later on,

It is not that Scripture offers us no information but that the nature of this information is unique. It is governed by the purpose of God’s revelation. The view of inspiration that forms the basis of the misunderstanding of this purpose considers “inerrancy” essential as a parallel characterization of reliability; that is a flight of fancy away from this purpose.

There is one more basic fallacy of this whole view. There are only two options. If Scripture must be interpreted according to its goal, then one must ask the question, “How do I find the goal.” If it is in Scripture, then I must interpret Scripture to find that goal, and at the same time interpret it according to that goal, which means that I must presuppose it. If I find the goal outside of Scripture, on the other hand, then I have an extra biblical authority over Scripture. There is no solution to this dilemma. Either way, my authority has become subjective.

At the same time, this view also destroys the unity of truth, as we have already intimated. Hubbard says, “Error theologically must mean that which leads us astray from the will of God or the knowledge of his truth.”

There is a definite discrepancy here between God’s truth, and other truth. If Jesus Christ is the Truth (John 14:6), and if God is the final absolute upon which all truth rests, the creator and sustainer, then surely all truth is his truth, and no truth is unimportant, or unrelated to any other truth. A scientist who discovers new truth about the universe is doing God’s will, as it was given to Adam. If we divide truth, we have lost our basis for rationality.

Obviously, as well, the intentionalists do not hold their view consistently. For example, Hubbard accused Lindsell of false statements about Fuller. But to do so, he had to revert to a correspondence view of truth. They use intention to interpret Scripture, but correspondence when criticizing.

At other times they use their theory well for their own convenience. Woodbridge says of Rogers and McKim, “The apologetic variety of history which Rogers and McKim write will make some professional historians wince.” Yet surely, manipulation of history is consistent with their view of truth. If it accomplishes its aim of persuading people to their view, it is true, whether it is correct or not, factually.

Another area of subjectivity in this view that should be mentioned is that it makes truth depend upon the receiver. It might be consistently argued, by intentionalism, that the Bible is true for such people as accept it, and false for such as refuse it.

There are two more methods of attempting to retain authority which we want to mention only briefly, and more study needs to be done into these two areas. The first is what I call “spiritualism.” We mentioned it once before in dealing with neo-orthodoxy. It is the view that the Holy Spirit enables us to discern between the truth and error of Scripture.

There is no doubt that illumination is a very important doctrine, and deserves far more attention than it gets. Packer says:

Bible commentaries, Bible classes, Bible lectures and courses, plus the church’s regular expository ministry, can give us fair certainty as to what scripture meant (and we should make full use of them to that end), but only through the Spirit’s illumination shall we be able to see how the teaching applies to us in our own situation.

But is it adequate to insure objective authority in the face of an errant Bible?

Hubbard thinks that it is. He says:

What proof did the prophets need to test whether God was speaking to them? Nothing but the power of that word itself. What proof did the Thessalonicans need that Paul’s gospel was true? Nothing but the conviction of God the Holy Spirit. What proof do we need to know whether the Bible is the Word of God? Nothing but the Spirit of God speaking to us in Scripture.

Actually, Hubbard’s examples are unfortunate, because although the prophets did not demand proof, God told the people not to believe them unless all that they said came to pass (Deut. 18:22), and Paul commended the Bereans, because they did not accept what he had to say without test, but being more noble than the Thessalonicans, they searched the Scripture to test the truth of Paul’s gospel. But Hubbard is not the only one who appeals to the Spirit.

Dr. Cremer was called upon to write the article “Inspiration” in the second edition of Herzog’s “realencyklopedia” (Vol. vi, sub. voc; pp. 745 seq.) which saw the light in 1880. In preparing this article he was led to take an entirely new view of the meaning of Qeopneustos, according to which it defines Scripture, in II Tim. iii. 16, not according to its origin, but according to its effect -- not as “inspired of God,” but as “inspiring its readers.”

Pinnock also seeks his authority in the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

I have come to place greater confidence in the power of the Spirit to make the Bible come alive for believers than I did before ... . Stress on the Spirit is noticeably lacking in the literature of inerrancy. I think it reveals a preoccupation with apologetic certainty....

If one is an errantist, then the only way to maintain authority is to assume that the Spirit enables us to differentiate between error and truth in Scripture. It is not enough to say that he helps us to understand it, for that does not deal with the problem. That the Spirit teaches us to understand it is the inerrantist position. There is no point in understanding error. Indeed, it cannot be understood, really, because error is unreasonable, and what is unreasonable cannot be understood.

The problem is, then, who’s witness of the Spirit is authoritative? Supposing two of us hold contradictory views as to what is error and what is true, both claiming the Spirit’s guidance. Unless you have something to test against, there is no reason for anybody to believe you before me. The authority is therefore subjective, and for that reason inadequate; it is inescapable.

The final attempt is that of direct revelation. This is at present uncommon among evangelicals, though it is the rule among cultists. But it is the next logical step from “spiritualism”; in fact, spiritualism is a disguised form of direct revelation. In spiritualism, the Spirit gives me direct revelation as to the true canon within the Bible. In direct revelation, I am not restricted to the Bible.

Pache says, ”Almost every heresy and sect has originated in a supposed revelation or a new experience on the part of its founder, something outside the strictly biblical framework.”

This is the ultimate result of acceptance of extra biblical and subjective authority. It is inadequate for precisely the same reasons as is spiritualism, so we will not bother to further refute it, but refer the reader back to that section.

 

To conclude our investigation of authority, let us note that without inerrancy, we have no adequate authority;

If it is finally settled that Scripture can err, then the church and its theologians will learn that no source and no standard remains to solve further doctrinal problems that may arise.

When we have no adequate authority, our doctrines have no secure base.

Where this [inerrancy] confession is not made, Scripture will not all be taken with all seriousness, elements of its teaching will inevitably be ignored, and the result, as Lindsell and Schaeffer with others correctly foresee, is bound to be a certain diminution of supernatural Christian faith -- as we have seen in the various versions of liberalism, neo-orthodoxy, and “biblical theology” and as we must now expect to see in new forms in tomorrow’s Roman Catholicism.

 

I am saying that whether it takes five years or fifty years any denomination or para-church group that forsakes inerrancy will end up shipwrecked. It is impossible to prevent the surrender of other important doctrinal teachings of the Word of God when Inerrancy is gone.

It may be argued by some that inerrancy does not provide any more adequate authority then does errancy.  Pinnock argues, with many others, that inerrancy is really not valid, since we all admit errors in our copies. Surely this argument can be seen through, since with the matter of the text we have variations, and we are quite aware what they are. Most of the text is quite certain.

The second argument is more difficult to refute; namely, that Scripture cannot be understood until it is interpreted, and that any interpretation will be subjective, since it will be colored by our background, education, etc. Now it may be true that interpretation has subjective elements in it, but it does not need to be wholly so. If language is valid, then much of Scripture will be obvious without much interpretation. The more precise the language, and the more objective it is, the less interpretation is involved. Also, we have something to test our interpretation against. We believe in the validity of reason. We recognize that man’s reason is fallen and so tainted. But though we may not be able, by reason, to understand infallibly, when the Holy Spirit points out inconsistency to us (error) in our interpretation, we can recognize it if we will. We have an objective base to argue from, whatever material we must deal with subjectively. We have an objective authority, infallible in all it touches, and therefore adequate.Inerrancy and. Authority

 

 

 

 

With all the talk of inerrancy, limited inerrancy, and various other  questions about the Bible today, it may sometimes be forgotten that what is actually at stake is the issue of authority. It is not a question of whether or not we have an authority. Montgomery, in writing about Romanism, says:

Surely some final authority must exist, and it would. appear that it now rests in the New Shape Roman theologian and. his community of like-minded. souls. There is thus more than irony in the definition of infallibility in Dominican Maurice Lelong’s “New Church Lexicon”: “The scandal of Vatican I. Infallibility can only be collective and. popular.” Inerrancy can no longer focus on one book or one man; it is now corporate and. democratic! Does this suggest the profound truth that no one ever dispenses with authority - one only relocates it?

Authority always exists. The question is, is my authority adequate? Where is it located?

I contend that, although any view of scripture allows for some kind of authority, without inerrancy there can be no adequate authority for the questions facing us.

This is not presented as a proof of inerrancy. It simply does not follow that because we need an adequate authority, therefore we must have it. If inerrancy of Scripture is false, my contention is that we do not have an adequate authority, and if we do not have an adequate authority, we will have to live without one - or we can commit suicide, and. if the Bible is errant, we have no authority great enough to tell us we must not do so.

In order to present my arguments clearly, it is important to the reader know where I am coming from. Many writers today do not begin by establishing their presuppositions, perhaps with the hope that the reader will think they don’t have any. But no one ever thinks without presuppositions, and for this reason, every argument is actually circular. The logical positivist, who claims to work inductively from primary information, still has to presuppose the validity of reason, or his senses.

Not only do all arguments carry presuppositions, but presuppositions are very difficult to refute, because before they can be falsified they must be given up. They cannot be proven or dis-proven.

That is not to say, however, that no argument can be persuasive. J. M. Frame brings this out clearly.

A “proof” of, say, the primacy of reason, can be highly persuasive and logically sound even though, at one level, circular. The circularity is rarely blatant; it lurks in the background.. One never says, “reason is true because reason says it is.” One says instead, “Reason is true because one must presuppose it even to deny it.” The second. argument is just as circular as the first. Both presuppose the validity of reason. But in the second argument the presupposition is implicit rather than explicit. And the second one is highly persuasive! The irrationalist cannot help but note that he is (in many cases) presenting his irrationalism in a highly rational way. He is trying to be more rational than the rationalist - a contradictory way to be! He must decide either to be a more consistent irrationalist (but note the paradox of that!) or to abandon his irrationalism. Of course, he might renounce consistency altogether, thus renouncing the presupposition of the argument. But the argument shows him vividly how hard it is to live without rationality. The argument is circular, but it draws some important facts to his attention. The argument is persuasive though circular because down deep in our hearts we know that we cannot live without reason.

 

Again he says:

A Christian Theist, while conceding that the argument for God’s existence is circular, nevertheless will claim that the argument is sound and persuasive, for he devoutly believes that his position is true, and he believes that it can be recognized clearly as such. He believes that God made man to think in terms of this circularity, rather than in terms of some competing circularity.”

While conceding that my arguments will be ultimately circular, and admitting my presuppositions right from the start, as I believe any honest writer ought to do, I still believe that the arguments presented will be reasonable and, hopefully, persuasive.

 

Basic presuppositions of this paper

 

Firstly, in this paper I am presupposing the validity of reason, or more specifically, the principle of non-contradiction. Actually, anyone who ever sits down to write, or even anyone who converses with anyone, has in practice presupposed. the validity of reason, for without reason, all communication is nonsense, and it is foolish to attempt it. It stands to reason that if my propositions can contradict reality, and if I can contradict myself, then in fact I will have communicated nothing to anyone; reason is therefore essential to communication.

Indeed, one cannot even do away with reason unreasonably. To deny reason, one must first assume it, as Frame pointed out above.

Secondly, I am presupposing the validity of language as a means of expressing truth.

There is a contemporary view of language that claims that language is incapable of conveying truth about God. Indeed, some linguists go so far as to say that language cannot be true at all, because of the discrepancy between the word and the object. But there is an immediate problem with this proposition. If we say, “Language cannot convey truth,” then we must ask, is that a true statement? If it is a true statement, then it is false, for it has just done what it said could not be done. And if it is false, on the other hand, then it is eliminated.

So language can convey truth; if it could not people would not talk, because it would be practically meaningless to do so. But what about God-talk? Is that, perhaps meaningless?

David Hume, the skeptical empiricist, was convinced that God-talk is non-sense. Geisler writes concerning his principle,

According to this principle, a statement, to be meaningful, must either be true by definition, (such as “all triangles have three sides”) or else it must be verifiable by one or more of the five senses. The principle, of course, proved to be too narrow (since it eliminated even some scientific statements) and had to be revised. But the conclusion reached by Ayer and other semantical atheists after him is still with us, namely that all God-talk is meaningless.”

 

This is also the basic idea of the logical positivist. But how do we answer it? It is true that much God’-talk cannot be verified, or falsified, by the senses. Is it therefore meaningless?

We must realize that God-talk is a language of presupposition. And as we said before, presupposition resists falsification. Indeed, the presuppositions of the logical positivist (the validity of logic, and the senses) cannot be empirically tested, and. so are non-sense by their own standard!

Obviously, God-talk is valid when viewed in that light. In fact, the idea that language is useless is based on the presupposition that language evolved. We presuppose, rather, that language was given to man by God, and is therefore meaningful. It cannot convey all there is to know about God, but it can express something about God validly and truthfully.

Even though the argument of this paper is not based on inerrancy, there can be no question that it is a presupposition that will color the content of the paper, and so I include it as my third presupposition. Some may feel that this is not truly a presupposition, since it seems to be arguable without circularity, but in reality it is not. Let us follow the argument closely. Warfield gives the basis of the doctrine clearly.

We believe this doctrine of the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures primarily because it is the doctrine which Christ and his apostles believed, and which they have taught to us. It may sometimes seem difficult to take our stand frankly by the side of Christ and his apostles. It will always be found safe.

In the same vein, Montgomery says, “Logically, if the Bible is not inerrant, though Jesus thought it was, He can hardly be the incarnate God He claimed to be and for whom the same claims are made by his apostles.”

I believe that the evidence from Scripture that Christ did believe in inerrancy has been adequately given by other writers, but we may cite, for example, Matt. 5:18, and Luke 14:17, or Matt. 22:43, demonstrating that Christ argued the very words of the Psalm. But one might say, “You are taking your evidence that Christ believed in inerrancy of Scripture from Scripture, and must therefore presuppose it’s inerrancy, since if it is not inerrant, then it may be in error at the points of Christ’s view of Scripture.” I must respond, that is correct. Thus, inerrancy is a presupposition, howbeit, I believe, a valid one.

Finally, a point that is more of a clarification than a presupposition. We must differentiate between a system of hermeneutics, and a statement regarding the nature of Scripture. Some, for example, have argued against inerrancy, saying that the Bible does not speak with scientific accuracy, i.e. that it often rounds numbers, etc. Now, that may be a sound principle of interpretation, or it may not, but it has nothing to say about whether the Bible is inerrant or not. In fact, it more supports inerrancy than otherwise. Inerrancy is a presupposition which hermeneutics must take into account. Parker expresses this very lucidly in his article, Encountering Present-day views of Scripture.

Though the confession of inerrancy does not help us to make the literary judgments that interpretation involves, it commits us in advance to harmonize and integrate all that we find Scripture teaching, without remainder, and so makes possible a theological grasp of Christianity that is altogether believing and altogether obedient.

There are other presuppositions that it might be useful to the reader to know, but I think most would be summed up adequately by saying that I hold a Theistic World View.

As to the scope of this paper, I am not attempting to defend the doctrine of inerrancy, or even of inspiration. I am only seeking to establish my thesis. I shall begin with a short historical analysis of the concept of truth, and show how views of truth have changed through the past centuries. I will then seek to give a method of building a view of truth, and for testing such views. I will show how the modern views of truth are inadequate, and. why the classic view of truth did not satisfy.

All this is to lay the groundwork for a discussion of authority, because authority is ultimately based on truth. I will describe two kinds of authority, showing the adequacy of one, and the inadequacy of the other.

I will then give the major views of Scripture that various errantists have used in an attempt to preserve an adequate authority for Scripture, and I will show why they cannot do so. In conclusion, I will show how inerrancy does provide an adequate authority.

 

I. A short historical analysis of the concept of truth

The classic view of truth is two-fold. First, truth cannot be contradictory (i.e. A cannot at the same time be non-A), and second, it must correspond with reality. This idea of truth assures two things. First, it assures that truth is a unity, for if a truth cannot be contradictory and still be true, then it follows that a truth from the realm of, say, physics cannot contradict a truth from the realm of biology, or one of them is not true. Or, a truth from the realm of history cannot contradict a truth from the realm of theology, or nature, and so on. So if the law of non-contradiction is valid, then there must be a unity to truth, and if the unifying factor can be discovered, all truth can be correlated.

Secondly, it assures that truth will be objective, for it must correspond to reality. That does not, of course, mean that every real proposition is true. A proposition may be a real proposition and yet not be in line with reality (i.e. a lie). Thus, a true proposition about a proposition that does not line up with reality is “that is a lie,” because that lines up with the reality of the falsity of the first proposition.

Neither does this do away with the validity of subjective or relative truth, because both are actually objective assessments of limited or comparative facts. For example, if a person says, “Spinach is good,” that subjective statement may be objectively true as it pertains to that person if in fact he really likes spinach, or thinks that spinach is good even if he does not like it. If so, it is a valid subjective truth, and it is also objectively true as regards that person.

The classical pagan philosophers were unable to correlate all truth, because they lacked. the unifying factor, i.e. the theistic God. The apostles possessed the unifying factor, and were able to build a valid epistemology that could account for both general principles and particular incidents. But with Thomas Aquinas that began to change. He believed that there was some good in the human intellect, that it was not totally depraved.

Bacon followed his lead. Geisler says of him,

After tearing down the “idols” of the old deductive method of discovering truth, Bacon argued that “the best demonstration by far is experience.” The inductive method, he said, is the true way to interpret nature. One can understand how Bacon could consider inductive logic a valid method for scientific inquiry, but he went far beyond reasonable bounds when he claimed universal applicability for his method.

This means that every general principle had to be derived from experience-able details. The fact that he was assuming a general principle a priori (i.e. that reason is capable of interpreting man’s experiences) did not seem to occur to him.

But what would he do with God? For God could not be discovered inductively. Again from Geisler:

For Bacon and even more clearly for Hobbes who followed him, the Bible serves a religious and evocative function -- it leads us to honor and obey God but does not make cognitive truth claims about God nor affirmations about the physical universe.

What Bacon and Hobbes had done, whether or not they realized it, was to deny either non-contradiction or else the truth of theology. Thus they set the groundwork for the destruction of the unity of truth. For Hobbes, religion is absurd, and must be accepted by blind faith. But why accept it if it is not true? And if it is true, you have two kinds of truth that are contradictory! Unity is destroyed, and essentially, non-contradiction is destroyed.

Immanuel Kant also contributed to the loss of unity. He was an agnostic, and taught that we cannot know, only perceive. We can know the “thing-to-me,” (phenomenal) but not the “thing-in-itself” (noumenal). This gulf is impassible by the nature of knowing (i.e. as Bacon taught it). Although he did not deny objective truth, he said we cannot know it. Facts have nothing to do with values, because facts are what we perceive, values are what are real. So perceptions, in his thinking, are objective, realities subjective.

Kierkegaard followed Kant, also making a fact/value dichotomy, but distinguishing between the factual or propositional and. the personal. The two were unrelated. God is beyond proof, the doctrines of God and of inspiration are unfalsifiable, because totally divorced from reason. God then becomes practically subjective. He can only be known by faith, whereas facts are known by reason. So we have the same dichotomy between theological Truth and. natural truth.

It is interesting that Rogers and McKim attribute this same dichotomy to Calvin:

Calvin did not wish to substitute theology for philosophy. Each had. its own appropriate realm -- theology for matters of salvation and the life of faith, and philosophy for matters of worldly wisdom and practice.

It is hard to conceive of Calvin as a modern man!

The third stage is a move to irrationality. Following Bacon’s lead, and moving from specifics to universals, man finally realized that he had to give up the rationality of faith, and theology, but not only that. Everything had to be irrational. Why? Because ideally all facts must be related to a system to be intelligib1e. But man found that facts are so varied that he could not find a system that would cover all of them. He despaired of ever doing so, and concluded that all facts are irrational and unrelated. Rationality is purely a subjective, pragmatic way of looking at things. It must be subjective, because (following Kant) I am the only person that I know exists. I perceive everyone else, and that means they are phenomenal and unknowable. And it must be pragmatic because “If factuality is non-rational, it is expected that rationality will be merely ‘practical’.” It is clear that we cannot live without reason, but if it is unreal, then it must be some make-believe practical system that we adopt to give ourselves security.

Not only does truth become subjective under irrationality, but the way is opened for humanism as well. If my own existence is the only thing I can be sure of, then I must make myself the ultimate reference point for interpreting my perceptions. As Van Til says,

That issue may be stated simply and comprehensively by saying that in the Christian view of things it is the self-contained God who is the final point of reference, while in the case of the modern view it is the would-be self-contained man who is the final point of reference in all interpretation.”

We will see later on what this does to authority.

 

II. An adequate test for systems of truth

If we are ever to arrive at some idea of what truth is, we must have a test by which we evaluate each view of truth.

The first thing we must not do is formulate a test that will, by definition, rule out any view of truth but what we want truth to be. For example, Hume argued against miracles by defining a miracle as something that never happens. If we accept that definition, then of course there are no miracles in reality, because as soon as something happens it is not a miracle, by the definition. Such an argument is not valid. It is a misuse of language.

An adequate view of truth must be able to account for everything; every fact, every observation, every feeling, every illusion. There must be nothing in the universe that is not covered by the system. The only alternative is to give up rationality, and we have shown in the introduction how difficult that is. We should not give it up until we have tried every possibility.

But how can we go about building a system of truth that will cover everything? I would like to suggest that we search for truth in the same way that the legendary Sherlock Holmes sought for criminals.

In the first place, we must not pretend to think without presuppositions. If we think we do, we are deceiving ourselves, and a self-deceived person will never arrive at truth. In fact, our system of truth, ultimately, is our presupposition. So what we really have to test are our presuppositions.

Secondly, we must not limit ourselves to any one way of thinking. Some thinkers have tried to reason from pure deduction, but have not been able to deduce all that is. Others, like Bacon, have tried to reason from induction only, but have not been able to put all their facts into any one system. But is it inconceivable that both methods of thinking could be used together? It ought to be attempted.

Thirdly, one must not rule out, a priori, any system of truth simply because it carries obligations with it, or would demand change of us. That is dishonesty.

How did Holmes operate? He took the facts that he had, and from them induced. several general theories. From these theories he deduced further facts that ought to exist if the theory were correct. Then he would begin to look for those facts. If they did not, in reality, exist, he tried a different theory, and tested it in the same way. At the same time, again inducing, if he discovered a fact that did not fit the theory, he altered or expanded the theory, or else dropped it, and continued on from there.

If we apply this method to modern systems of thought, we are faced with some grave difficulties. Both irrationality and subjectivism are out of line with our minds -- and our minds are part of what is there. Neither one can account for it. We find it impossible to think in a totally irrational manner. Both leave us with subjective truth, and. yet we cannot live with that either, for we are forever trying to persuade other people to think like we do, or at least thinking that they are wrong in the way they think. But if truth is subjective, then nobody is wrong, and. if that were true, we would not think that they are wrong. We are contradicting our presuppositions to suppose so.

Let us postulate a pantheistic world view. Can it account for all that is? Well, it says that all is unity. But is that all there is? Don’t we experience diversity? Ah, yes, but that appearance of diversity is illusion. But surely the illusion is something different from the reality? For if illusion and reality were the same thing, we would never know the difference. Pantheism cannot account for all there is.

Perhaps the universe is all chance. Will that explain all there is? From that premise, we would naturally expect the universe to be random. There is, in that view, no real cause and effect. Why should chance move in an orderly way? We never experience it so. But the world seems to be orderly, not random. And if all is chance, the universe should be impersonal. But that does not account for man, who at least appears to be personal. And if all is chance, why don’t we live that way? Why are we careful what we eat, what we do, etc? For if all is chance, then when I jump off a bridge, I never know if I will fall or not. Chance cannot account for all that is.

Perhaps someone would argue that the classic view of truth as objective and unified has not been able to explain all there is either. We would reply that those who did not find it adequate built it on too narrow a foundation. It can account for all there is, if one admits the possibility of a theistic God.

Working from the general hypothesis of a theistic God, one would expect order in the universe. And in fact, the universe seems to be orderly. One would expect some evidence of personality, and man seems to be personal. A correlation between man and his environment would be expected, and we find such a correlation. We would expect man to have a moral sensibility, and he does. We would. expect a correlation between man’s thoughts, and the place in which he lives, and man does tend to think in terms of correspondence.

We could go on and on. It is granted that an adequate application of this method is beyond the power of the pen, but it is also believed that if anyone will look honestly at the issue, he will see that as there are only a limited number of possibilities, and only one will account for all that is, it must be correct. And if it is, then we have preserved rationality -- unity and objectivity.

 

III. The question of authority

The next question confronting us is, what about authority? What is it? What constitutes an adequate authority?

The dictionary gives several definitions of the word. For example, “A citation (as from a book) used in defense or support of ones actions, opinions, or beliefs,” or “power to require and receive submission: the right to expect obedience.”

Both carry with them the idea of a control of actions and beliefs. Authority is the reason behind what I do and think. Authority is the “ought” of life. Perhaps authority is not necessary, in the ultimate sense of the word, but none the less, “no one ever dispenses with authority, one only relocates it.” Every man attempts always to show reasons why he is right, or why he did what he did, and if he does not, it is because he considers himself the ultimate authority.

J.I. Packer comments that “only truth can have final authority to determine belief and behavior.” The idea is that the “ought” says that I must bring my beliefs and behavior into line with what is true.

But why should I believe what is true? What is wrong with believing something that is false? To many, this question may seem absurd. Of course, it is stupid to deliberately believe a falsehood. But it is a legitimate question none the less. So again I ask, why? Because it is necessary for survival. I will not live long, physically if I refuse to live according to the physical reality of the universe. But even more important, I will not survive spiritually without living in harmony with the spiritual reality of the universe.

Not only does authority involve the demand that we line up with truth, it also involves how we discover truth. Everything we believe we believe on authority. We accept on authority that Julius Caesar was a Roman Emperor. Our authority is history, or more correctly, historians. Our authority for believing something may be another person, or a book, or our own senses, or our own reason. But we always believe by assuming the authority of our source of knowledge. We cannot know without authority.

 

Finally, authority must be as general as the class to which it refers. For example, human beings are all a part of the material universe. Therefore the realities of matter have authority over all mankind. Every man, to survive, must live in line with material reality. No one is exempt from the authority of the reality of gravity. Every unsupported body within the gravitational dominance of the earth falls toward the earth.

So a man needs two things; his authority must be able to tell him what reality is, and also how to live in harmony with the reality.

Authority is based on truth. Therefore since we have two basic concepts of truth, we have also two ideas of authority.

If, as many claim, truth is subjective, then authority is also subjective. The idea of subjective truth is based on the assumption that all that is real is in the subject. The material universe may not be real, nor other people either. All that I know is real is myself. Subjective authority says that the only reality I must line up with is myself, and that I myself can be trusted as the source of truth regarding myself. Now, if in fact reality only involves myself, then subjective authority is adequate. But if reality can apply to things other than myself, such authority is not adequate, because it does not account for all of reality. In fact, truth is not subjective, and this is illustrated by the fact that not even the subjectivists live as though it were. If they do, they don’t live. Even a subjectivist will get out of the way of a Mack truck, if he sees it. Why? Because he recognizes and submits to the objective authority of the laws of motion. Objective authority is adequate, for it accounts for the Mack truck. Subjective authority is not adequate, and the subject knows it.

Some would say that we need objective authority in the material realm, but that subjective authority is adequate in the spiritual realm.

More than a century ago, he [Schleiermacher] taught that the true source of theology was not the Bible but man’s religious consciousness. Thus the objective revelation of God in the Bible was set aside, and man’s subjective opinions were exalted to the position of authority.

Again, the only possible way to hold this is to assume that man is the only spiritual reality in the universe. If there is a God who is real, subjective authority cannot account for him.

It may be argued that objective authority is not adequate either, because it demands that I be in harmony with all of reality, and I cannot know all of reality. By this argument, I should not be surviving. This objection is invalid on two counts. Not all of reality is applicable to me directly and at all times. If there are no elephants where I live, then truths about elephants may not be applicable to me at present. Secondly, it does not take the theistic God into account. If he is the creator, then we can expect him to be in harmony with all of reality. And therefore, if we are in harmony with him, we will be in harmony with all of reality. That does not mean that we approve of all reality. The way to be in harmony with the reality of sin, for example, is to hate it, and expect it to be judged, finally.

In summary, subjective authority is not adequate, because it takes myself only into account. If there is any reality there, besides myself, subjective authority cannot account for it, and any attempt to do so is no more authoritative than anyone elses' attempt.

Objective authority, on the other hand, is adequate if the source is dependable and knowledgeable. Keep in mind that a source may be dependable and knowledgeable in a limited sphere, and so be adequate authority in that limited sphere, but remain an inadequate authority in a broader sphere. For example, our senses are a reliable source of objective authority, in a limited. sphere (the material) and when their frailties are taken into account (i.e. one must be tested against the other, for our senses may be deceiving; and their limits must be recognized). That the senses are a relatively objective authority is seen in the fact that by following them we manage to survive, whereas when they are impaired (i.e. as through alcohol consumption), non-survival increases. But our senses, on the other hand , are not an adequate objective authority for direct spiritual awareness.

 

 

IV. The search for authority in errancy

 

There are perhaps two main reasons why many evangelicals have repudiated the inerrancy of Scripture. The first is because of apparent internal contradictions. They believe that there are things in Scripture that do not harmonize; such as various dates, etc. The second reason is that they believe there are things in Scriptures that contradict the findings of science. Berkouwer tacitly admits this, when he says, “This has gone hand in hand with an increasing revulsion against ‘harmonism’ and ‘concordism’ phenomena which all too often advance a view of Scripture that demands too much of it.”

Stephen Davis says that the Bible should be authoritative for every Christian on all that it says on any subject until he comes across something which he judges that he, for good reasons, cannot accept.

What the errantists may not realize is that they had to shift their authority before they could assert that there are any errors in the Bible. If scripture is our absolute authority, then what contradicts it must be wrong, and contradictions within it must be apparent, and should be possible to harmonize with proper hermeneutics and further light. Only if I, a priori, admit that there are other authorities at least equal to Scripture, can I admit to errors in Scripture. This attitude toward Scripture is not in the least a necessary one. Better scholarship is constantly reducing the internal conflicts in Scripture, and science is a very unstable pillar to build one’s authority upon. It is continually changing its dogmas. For example, Scripture was once scoffed at for talking about the sun rising, (though every scientist, in everyday language, speaks of the sunrise and sunset). But now, with the advent of relativity, scientist say that it really doesn’t matter whether you speak of the sun going around the earth, or the earth around the sun; it all depends on your frame of reference, anyway. We have no way of knowing for sure which way it is. So old concepts of science are shown to be out of date, and if the Bible is allowed to change by every whim of science, it may be false today and true tomorrow.

Errantists have recognized that with their view of inspiration, Biblical authority was placed on a flimsy foundation, and have proposed a variety of theories to maintain the authority of an errant Scripture. But none of them are adequate to do so, as we shall see in the remainder of this paper.

In these systems there is bound to be overlap, as they all have some things in common, and a few things are common to all. This should be kept in mind as we proceed.

The first theory that we will examine is the theory of accommodation, or adaptation.

The basic idea of this theory is that God accommodated himself to humanity in the Scriptures in order to make them comprehensible to man, and in so doing, had to incorporate errors. It is often likened to a little child who’s father talks to him in a truncated language, accommodating himself to the child’s vocabulary and understanding. Pinnock uses this argument, claiming that it is not necessary for the Bible to be inerrant just because it is inspired, because God uses fallible human beings all the time to proclaim his word, and he accomplishes his purpose by it.

There are several assumptions of this view that should be pointed out. First, that the Bible errs because it presents things as they appear, rather than as they are. Second, the idea that if God accommodates himself to human language, he must err, because humans err. Thirdly, the idea that because the Bible emphasizes certain things, it may err in what it dots not emphasize. And finally, because it is written by men, it must err, because men err.

This view is often taken further, to say that God not only accommodated himself to human language, but to the Hebrew thought forms and to the contemporary culture as well.

An integral and practical part of the theory of accommodation is the separation of the “human” and “divine” elements of Scripture. Pinnock says, “Although Protestant orthodoxy confesses both the divine and the human element in the Bible, as it also does in Christology, it has been happier affirming its divine authority than admitting its human characteristics.” He says further, “The prime theological issue which became evident in our survey of options on biblical authority is the need to maintain with equal force both the humanity and the divinity of the word of Scripture.”

The idea of this dichotomy is that the Bible is the writing of men, written with their own peculiar literary style, their own backgrounds, viewpoints, world views, education, and so on as a foundation for that writing. It is contended that they must have erred, since their world view would be as erroneous as their contemporaries’.

 

In fact, there is a legitimate idea of accommodation. God did condescend to speak in human language. There is no other way for him to make himself intelligible to man. But it does not follow that language therefore must err, in that it is human. A father, in accommodating himself to a small child, does not necessarily misinform him, simply because he is speaking a child language. Although he may not be able to give comprehensive truth, in the sense of saying all that could be said, due to the child’s limited understanding, what he says can still be precise. Neither is strict precision always necessary, and when it is not needed lack of it is not a fault. I may, in everyday conversation, speak of the “five mile corner.” That is adequate and true, for in normal usage, nobody would expect me to say “five miles, three feet, four point zero zero one six three inches.” It would not mean anything to anyone anyway. Rounding is an accepted language procedure.

Young demonstrates that within the context of a Biblical view of truth there is room for crudity and roughness of literary style, including improper grammatical structure, variations of parallel accounts of events, discourses, etc. but not room for contradiction or deception. Phenomenological, anthropomorphic, hyperbolic, etc. forms of language do not negate or falsify truth.

Human language may err, but it does not necessarily do so. As to God accommodating himself to Hebrew thought forms, there is, of course, a nucleus of truth here. The Old Testament is written in Hebrew, in Hebrew style, and reflecting Hebrew thought. But although a language does reflect the thought forms of a culture, it is not bound to them. James Barr argues that it is an unsound linguistic procedure to make the supposed thought structure of a language group dictate the possible meanings of the words in that language. Although the language may reflect the thought patterns of a group, it can express truths not dominant in the particular thought pattern. It is true that to interpret correctly, we must be aware of such things, but that is hermeneutics. It does not follow that the Bible errs.

Again, it is argued that Scripture adapts to and reflects human culture, and. so must err. To put it more clearly, the Bible can be discounted where it touches on culture, because it was only reflecting the culture of the day, and that culture is not necessarily right. Of this idea Warfield says:

The fact is that the theory of ‘accommodation’ is presented by Mr. Stuart only to enable him the more easily to refuse to be bound by the apostolic teaching in this matter, and as such it has served him as a stepping stone by which he has attained to an even more drastic principle, on which he practically acts: that wherever the apostle can be shown to agree with their contemporaries, their teaching may be neglected.

It obviously does not follow that agreement with contemporaries indicates error, especially as it may be noticed that on many points the Bible counters current culture.

Perhaps the overall argument here is that the Bible, as a human book, must be subject to error, but that in it’s divine aspect, it is authoritative. This may sound reasonable, but three things need to be realized. First, because it is a human book, it does not necessarily err. Christ was human, and yet did not err. This we must hold to, for “had he been mistaken... the church could well ask whether any single teaching of Jesus on any subject (including the way of salvation) might not also reflect his sincere misunderstanding.” To postulate that Jesus erred is to destroy his authority. Secondly, if the Bible errs because it is human, the Holy Spirit, as supervisor of the work, must still be held responsible for all errors. Let us imagine an executive secretary, who’s boss instructs her to write a letter, giving such and such information, and when it is finished, to bring it to him for his signature. She writes the letter, couching it in her own style, her own vocabulary, and so on. She brings it to the boss, he reads it and signs it. When he puts his signature on it, he is endorsing all it contains. If there are errors in it, he was responsible to catch them and have them corrected before he signed it. He is responsible. In the same sense, the Holy Spirit “signed” the Scriptures. He is responsible for every error. But, though it might have been error through ignorance on the part of the human author, on the part of the Holy Spirit, it is a lie, for he is not ignorant. If the Holy Spirit lies, his authority is destroyed. He cannot be trusted.

Finally, if the Bible is Human and Divine, and the human element admits errors, who or what determines what the errors are, and what is not error? Perhaps it would be advocated that Scripture itself witnesses to the difference. But what principle of Scripture would indicate how to tell its errors from truth? And should we find such a principle, what is to guarantee that the principle itself is not part of the errant matter, and so invalid?

Perhaps we will allow science, in the broadest sense of that term, to determine what is error and what is not. But in that case, science, not the Bible, has become my final authority; and besides, science, or at least scientists, are not infallible. How do I know that they are not in error regarding which parts of Scripture err? Is the authority of fallible scientists adequate for spiritual matters? Will I place my soul’s eternal destiny in their hands? Perhaps you would say that we must use our own judgment as to where science, or the Scripture errs. But now, I am become my own authority. Where do I get my guidelines for discernment? I cannot get them from Scripture; that is what needs discerning. I am left with a subjective authority, and we have already seen that such an authority is totally inadequate,

The concept of accommodation as the errantist present it leaves us without an adequate authority. In the final analysis, it leaves me alone with myself. I cannot know for sure, the validity of anything outside myself.

Before discussing the “limited inerrancy” view, I want to deal briefly with a concept proposed by Berkouwer, that is closely allied with accommodation. It is the idea of “time-boundedness.”

Moreover, the Word finds its way through periods having their own social structures and “cultural patterns” -- customs and concepts relative to the particular period. The Word of God does not remain aloof from this, but is heard in the midst of it. As a result, the time-boundedness of certain admonitions and prohibitions is clear to all. Various statements by Paul regarding womanhood and marriage constitute some of the most discussed illustrations of this particular problem of time-boundness.

The obvious idea is that because the Word is “time-bound” it cannot give objective truth in regards to such things as womanhood. Scripture reflected, not God’s mind, but the mind of the men of the day, in certain things. He gives a further example of this argument.

One should also mention Paul’s ‘argument’ that man was not made from women, but woman from man, and that man is now born of woman (I Cor. 18:8-12). It is evident that one cannot make an inch of progress by speaking of the “correctness” of such words in the abstract.

The implication of what he is saying is clear. Creation is an out-modded, “time-bound” concept (of course God didn’t really make Eve from Adam’s rib. That is only a story, a legend of the Hebrews), and so we don’t believe it. Because Paul’s argument is based on this “time-bound” concept, then it is also time-bound, and we don’t believe it either. But the upshot of it all is, that I can refuse anything in Scripture on that basis, for all of it was written more than one thousand years ago. Who is to determine what has been affected by time, and what has not? Ultimately, I must determine that for myself, according to what seems reasonable to me, and that means that my authority is again subjective. But a subjective authority is not adequate for objective truth.

Berkouwer claims that Paul himself supports the “time-boundedness” idea.

Besides, we note how Paul himself gives an indication of this situation and time-boundedness He emphatically answers questions which have been sent to him (I Cor. 7:1), and he considers something to be right “in view of the impending distress” (I Cor. 7:26).

Actually, this argues against the concept, for the fact that Paul goes out of his way to express the “time-boundedness” of this situation indicates that other situations are not time-bound, else why make a special case of this one?

The second theory that we want to discuss, and perhaps the most popular, is the “limited inerrancy” theory. Benedict Spinoza taught the basic tenant of this view -- that the Bible is authoritative in religious matters only. He carried it further perhaps then modern day evangelicals would, for he said that the Bible has nothing to say to reason; science is for the intellect, religion is for the will. Perhaps he was more consistent than some of his modern counterparts.

Francis Schaeffer explains this view as follows:

The issue is whether the Bible gives propositional truth (that is, truth that may be stated in propositions) where it touches history and the cosmos, and this all the way back to the first eleven chapters of Genesis, or whether instead of that it is only meaningful where it touches that which is considered religious.

 

Harold Lindsell says it this way: “The sum of it is this: Whatever has to do with the gospel in the Bible is inspired and can be trusted; whatever does not have to do with the gospel has errors in it -- it is not inerrant.”

And Geisler quotes Davis: “Davis says, ‘there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible,’ and adds, ‘I have found none on matters of faith and practice.

It is a simple enough theory on the surface, and it looks as if it might do the job of providing an adequate authority without total inerrancy. But if we examine it closely, we find that it has serious problems.

The first serious difficulty is that we must open up the question of canonicity, at least in a practical way. Unless God inspires error, then what is erroneous is not inspired. Even if it is, it cannot stand on the same level as that which is inerrant. Gerstner points out:

We realize that some who disagree with inerrancy are claiming inspiration for parts of the Bible, the so-called salvation parts. Very well, but then they cannot title their position biblical authority but only partial biblical authority. To add insult to injury to God’s Word, they cannot tell precisely what parts of the Bible are inspired. They say “salvation parts,” but they do not tell us where to find these or how to separate them from the uninspired, errant, non-salvation parts.

In his evaluation of Rogers and McKim’s proposals, Woodbridge comments,

The author’s description of the Bible creates for them the same kind of dilemma that neo-orthodox scholars before them faced: how to distinguish the infallible “central saving message” from the errant “difficult surrounding material.” This is a critical problem because Christianity is grounded in the dirt and dust of human history. Salvation truths are planted in the Bible’s historical discourse about things that happened.

Further, R.C. Sproul says,

Evangelical advocates of limited inerrancy are not expected to embrace Bultmann’s mythical view of New Testament super-naturalism. But their method has no inherent safeguard from an arbitrary delimitation of the scope of the biblical canon.

This is a very serious problem, and the answers that are given only raise more problems, as we shall see.

The second major problem is the old problem of unity of truth. The point is that if truth is a unity, then it is all interrelated, and if I believe error in one field of truth, it will affect my beliefs in all areas. Montgomery puts it this ways:

Regardless of how carefully the view point is stated, it necessarily involves a dualism between what is infallibly reliable in the Bible and what is not;... Not only does the Bible itself offer a monistic philosophy, of knowledge, but this viewpoint is necessitated by the very nature of the fields of knowledge themselves. Only the naive specialist really believes that science is qualitatively different from geography, or geography from history, or history from ethics, or ethics from theology.

This point cannot be given up without ultimately giving up rationality. If there is no integral relation between the fields of truth, then truth is not a unity. Jesus made this point, by arguing moral principles on scientific fact.

In short, we cannot separate science and Scripture. When the Bible declares that Jesus was born of a virgin, then it affirms a biological truth as well as a spiritual one. And when Jesus answered the question about divorce by saying, “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the creator ‘made them male and female’” (Matt. 19:4), He not only laid down a moral principle but made a scientific pronouncement as well. The scientific cannot be separated from the spiritual without doing violence to the spiritual.

Montgomery supports this idea when he says,

“Kenotic” (limitation) theories will not solve this dilemma. A meaningful incarnation demands an incarnate God who knows what He is doing -- on earth as it is in heaven -- and tells the truth -- on earth as it is in heaven. This is precisely the Jesus of Gospel accounts: the One who knows that He existed before Abraham, who condemns lying as a mark of the devil, and who so unites reliability in secular” matters with “theological” reliability that He can say to Nicodemus (and to us), “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believed not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things.

This last point of Jesus to Nicodemus would seem to clinch the argument, except that if you believe in errancy, then Jesus may have been in error when he said it.

We must agree with Montgomery when he says further,

The point does not require belaboring~ For practical purposes we may -- perhaps we must -- distinguish between “historical ,“ “geographical,” and “theological” statements in Holy Writ; but these distinctions are no more inherent to reality than the divisions between hand and wrist or trunk and branches. It is thus logically impossible to argue for an alleged perfection resident “spiritually” in Scripture while admitting imperfections in Scriptural knowledge viewed from a “secular” standpoint. Fallibility in the latter necessitates fallibility in the former --and this leaves one incapable of affirming a single doctrinal or moral teaching of the Bible with finality.

Is it any wonder then that those, such as the Roman Catholic exegete Loisy, beginning with “relative inerrancy” (the Bible erroneous only in matters of science and history) and pursuing vigorously the implications of this viewpoint, ultimately conclude “that the principle of relative truth is in fact of universal application”? 

It should be obvious that if we do away with the unity of truth, we are left with a subjective authority; for if truths can contradict, I am left to choose between the contradictory truths. As Sproul says, “How do we escape dehistoricizing the gospel and relegating it to a level of supra-temporal existential ‘decision’?”

It cannot be done, and we are without an adequate authority.

The third serious problem of the limited inerrancy view is that it places the inerrant material in the Bible outside of any test --it cannot be verified or falsified -- and faith becomes blind; a leap in the dark. R.C. Sproul says of this problem,

To those critics outside the fellowship of evangelicals, the notion of “limited inerrancy” appears artificial and contrived. Limited inerrancy gets us off the apologetical hook by making us immune to religious-historical criticism. We can eat our cake and have it too. The gospel is preserved; and our faith and practice remains intact while we admit errors in matters of history and cosmology. We cannot believe the Bible concerning earthly things, but we stake our lives on what it says concerning heavenly things. That approach was totally abrogated by our Lord (John 3:12).

How do we explain and defend the idea that the Bible is divinely superintended in part of its content but not all of it? Which part is inspired? Why only the faith and practice parts? Again, which are the faith and practice parts? Can we not justly be accused of “weaseling” if we adopt such a view? We remove our faith from the arena of historical verification or falsification. This is a fatal blow for apologetics as the reasoned defense of Christianity.

To do this makes experience the only test of truth in the religious realm. And if we do this, what have we left? This move was foreseen by T.H. Huxley, as Schaeffer points out:

T.H. Huxley, the biologist, the friend of Darwin, the grandfather of Aldous and Julian Huxley, wrote in 1890 that he visualized the day not far hence in which faith would be separated from all fact, and especially all pre-Abrahamic history, and that faith would then go on triumphant forever. This is an amazing quote for 1890 before the birth of existential philosophy or existential theology. He indeed foresaw something clearly. I am sure that he and his friends considered this some kind of a joke, because they would have understood well that if faith is separated from fact and specifically pre-Abrahamic space-time history, it is only another form of what we today call a trip.

 

Schaeffer goes on to say:

 

What I quoted in chapter one from T.H. Huxley applies at specifically this place. J.S. Bezzant, an old-fashioned liberal at Cambridge University, in Objections to Christian Belief also puts his finger on the problem of those who separate the portions of Genesis, and the Bible as a whole, that speak of history and the cosmos from those that speak of religious matters. In general, Bezzant speaks against historic Christianity itself, but suddenly he swings around and speaks to neo-orthodoxy. And he says this: “When I am told that it is precisely its immunity from proof which secures the Christian proclamation from the charge of being mythological I reply that immunity from proof can ‘secure’ nothing whatever except immunity from proof, and call nonsense by its name.” The neo-orthodox position is that the Bible makes mistakes in the areas of history and science, but we are to believe it anyway in the religious areas. The result is that religious things simply become “truth” inside one’s head -- just as the drug experience or the Eastern religious experience is “truth” inside of one’s head.

The moment I make truth untestable, it becomes empirical, and it is therefore subjective. If I argue from experience, how can I refute someone elses' experience, which may be different from mine? If Christianity can be said to be true on the basis of experience, then so can Buddhism — for Buddhists also have experience. We have only a subjective authority, and that is not adequate.

It is interesting to note that God gave his people an objective, factual test by which to check the authority of all prophets (Deut. 18:22), and Paul based the truth of Christianity squarely on the historical fact of the resurrection (I Cor. 15:17).

The fourth serious difficulty is closely related to the first. It is simply this. How do I determine what is religious truth and what is not? Lindsell very clearly states the problem.

Once limited inerrancy is accepted, it places the Bible in the same category with every other book that has ever been written. Every book contains in it some things that are true. And what is true is inerrant. Only two things remain to be determined, once this position is acknowledged. The first is what proportion of the book is true and what proportion is false. It may be 90% false and 10% true; or it may be 90% true and 10% false. The second thing that needs to be determined is what parts of the book are true. Since the book contains both truth and falsehood, of necessity, other criteria outside of the book must be brought to bear upon it to determine what is false and what is true. Whatever the source of the other criteria, that becomes the judge of the book in question. Thus the book becomes subordinate to the standard against which it’s truth is determined and measured.

It is clear that the language of Scripture itself cannot tell us which parts are “faith end practice” parts, and which are not. James Barr, himself no friend of inerrancy, makes this plain.

In other words, the sacred tradition of the apostolic church is never purely “religious language,” and still less so is the Old Testament as the sacred tradition of Israel. But the non-religious language of the Bible is of Theological importance just as the religious language is.

If Scripture’s language itself cannot clear up the question, then we must bring an outside source to bear on it. Commenting further on the Rogers McKim proposals, Woodbridge says,

They do say, however, that “ancient principles must be applied using all that we can learn about language and culture from the human and social sciences of the twentieth century” (p. 461). What this means in practicality is that the infallible salvation material can shrink or expand in accordance with the latest givens in higher biblical criticism, cultural anthropology, or findings from other disciplines. As the changing “givens of modernity” set standards for understanding Scripture for Bultmann, so they do for Rogers and McKim. In a word, the believer is obliged to give up the doctrine of sola Scriptura as the Reformers perceived it because his or her reason influenced by shifting “givens” becomes another authority. Our reason helps us to determine an infallible canon within the Scripture. Ironically, then, Rogers and McKim’s proposal which they package as one of “faith” before “reason” cracks the door open to the radical criticism of the Bible. Their unqualified fideism concerning the role of the Holy Spirit in confirming the authority of Scripture to believers is matched by an apparent unqualified confidence in reason’s rights to superintend biblical studies.

It is obvious that if you judge the Bible by an outside source, and that source is fallible, then in the final analysis, your own mind is the ultimate authority. J.I. Packer says:

He who makes his own judgment his grounds for rejecting anything in the Bible thereby logically makes his own judgment, rather than trust in God’s truthfulness, his ground for accepting everything in the Bible that he does accept.

This is seen quite clearly in Geisler’s quote of Davis: “Davis says, ‘there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible,’ and adds, ‘I have found none on matters of faith and practice.’” The words ‘I have found none’ give him away. It shows that even in the areas of faith and practice, he is on the lookout for errors, showing that ultimately he judges all of Scripture by himself as standard. Such a standard is obviously subjective. It can be concluded then, that if inerrancy is limited, we must apply subjective authority in discovering what is true and what is false, and such authority is inadequate.

The fifth difficulty is what has been termed the “domino theory.” Sproul describes this problem very well.

Frequently this concern is dismissed out of hand as being so much alarmism. But our doctrine of Scripture is not a child’s game of dominoes. We know instances in which men have abandoned belief if full inerrancy but have remained substantially orthodox in the rest of their Theology. We are also aware of the sad instances in which full inerrancy is affirmed yet the substance of theology is corrupt. Inerrancy is no guarantee of Biblical orthodoxy. Yet even a cursory view of church history has shown some patterns of correlation between a weakening of Biblical authority and a serious defection regarding the Wesen of Christianity. The Wesen of nineteenth century liberalism is hardly the gospel evangelicals embrace.

We have already seen, within evangelical circles, a move from limited inerrancy to challenges of matters of faith and practice. When the apostle Paul is depicted as espousing two mutually contradictory views of the role of women in the church, we see a critique of apostolic teaching that does touch directly on the practice of the church.

Geisler points outs:

Davis says, “there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible” and adds, “I have found none on matters of faith and practice.” However he speaks confidently of Paul’s sexism and even of Jesus’ mistaken belief about the time of His second coming.

Surely these are matters of faith and practice. Sproul says:

In the hotly disputed issue of homosexuality we see denominational commissions not only supplementing biblical authority with corroborative evidence drawn from modern sources of medical psychological study but also “correcting” the biblical view by such secular authority.

Obviously the domino theory is not “alarmism.” It is a real danger. That this domino effect exists does not prove anything as regards inerrancy, but it is evidence of the subjective nature of biblical authority with limited inerrancy.

A third method of trying to secure adequate authority for the errancy position is an appeal to church history. Rogers and McKim’s book is an excellent example of this. We will not deal extensively with this attempt, as it is so obviously a weak one, but it does deserve some attention.

In the forward to Rogers and McKim’s book, this statement is made.

To take seriously once more Calvin’s teaching on the Holy Scripture and its roots in Christian history and in the Bible itself means to restore the place of the Holy Spirit, not only as the inspirer of real, living human authors, but as the inspirer too of real, living human interpreters.

In the text of the book, Rogers and McKim say, “Calvin did not wish to substitute theology for philosophy. Each had it’s own appropriate realm -- theology for matters of salvation and the life of faith, and philosophy for matters of worldly wisdom and practice.”

Obviously the writers believe that Calvin did not believe in the full inerrancy of Scripture. Example after example of this could be given. Now of course, it can be argued with a great deal of force that this premise is false, and that the historic position of the Christian church is inerrancy. That is Woodbridge’s position, in his reply to Rogers and McKim. And Berkouwer, himself an errantist, seems to lend credence to the idea that the church did believe in inerrancy when he says,

There can be no doubt that for a long time during church history certainty of faith was specifically linked to the trustworthiness of Holy Scripture as the Word of God. Undoubtedly, Herman Bavinck is referring to this when he writes that there is no doctrine “on which there is more unanimity than on that of Holy Scripture.” From its earliest days the church held that Scripture is not an imperfect, humanly untrustworthy book of various religious experiences, but one with a peculiar mystery, even though the nature of that mystery was often a point of controversy.

But supposing it should be proven that the reformers, and the church fathers did believe the Bible to be errant. That would not make it true, for the church is not infallible. If it were, we would not need Scripture. If orthodoxy is false, let us by all means forsake orthodoxy. The reformers did, when they defied the authority of Rome. So the argument from church history is an extremely weak one.

The fourth attempt at retaining authority while holding to an errant Scripture is the view of neo-orthodoxy. It may be true that evangelicals today do not hold to neo-orthodoxy, but many are proposing a doctrine of Scripture that has varying degrees of similarity to the neo-orthodox position on Scripture, and therefore, it must be examined.

Although Karl Barth is considered the father of neo-orthodoxy, we need to go back to Soren Kierkegaard to find it’s real roots, for neo-orthodoxy is a form of religious existentialism.

Of Kierkegaard’s philosophy Geisler says, “Truth is a subjective encounter with God for which one has no good reason but which one must appropriate by a passionate ‘leap’ of faith. Indeed, Kierkegaard taught that all truth is subjective. He elevated faith as opposed to reason, and taught that there must be no reason for faith, because faith with a factual basis isn’t really faith. He said that the true object of faith was a paradox, not a fact. Truth is a subjective experience.

Nygren says, “Lessing constantly emphasized the search for the truth rather than the results of the search,” and that this was with Kierkegaard’s approval.

We find in Barth the same concept. Barth also finds truth in paradox. For him, there is no certain “yes” or “no”, but rather truth is in the tension between the two; certainty then becomes the greatest enemy of truth, because that tension must be maintained if the search for truth is to go on. In other words, truth is not something that you can know , only an experience you have in the midst of the throes of the dilemma between “yes” and “no.” This philosophy carries into the Bible as well. To Barth, the Bible is “through and through dialectic.”

What then is the neo-orthodox idea of the Bible? To them the Bible is not the Word of God, but it witnesses too the Word of God. It is myth, which illustrates to mens' mind truth, but truth that is not true until he recognizes it as such. It is not propositional truth, but emotional truth.

Barth says:

The Bible is the literary monument of an ancient racial religion and of a Hellenistic cultus religion of the Near East. A human document like any other, it can lay no a priori dogmatic claim to special attention and consideration. This judgment, being announced by every tongue and believed in every territory, we may take for granted today.

To him, it was not God, but Moses who created the law. “Why was it that Moses was able to create a law which for purity and humanity puts us moderns only to shame?”

The Genesis accounts of creation “are not at all an academic account of our beginnings. They are a powerful sermon (almost a song) that celebrate God’s power and glory over all the elements and objects of the universe which Israel’s neighbors falsely worshiped.” He says further, “For the same reason the Biblical idea of the creation is never expended into a cosmogony. It is intended for a solemn marking of the distance between the cosmos and the Creator, and precisely not for a metaphysical explanation of the World.”

For Barth, God is so separate from his creation that there is no positive contact between the two. There is no possibility of a human and divine coming together, so the Bible is purely human. God cannot serve. He must rule. He must himself grasp, seize, manage, use. He can satisfy no other needs than his own. He is not in another world over against this one; he submerges all of this in the other. He is not a thing among other things, but the Wholly Other, the infinite aggregate of all merely relative others.”

God is so far removed that objective, propositional communication to us is impossible. Barth complains that “instead of being the document of the axiomatic, the Bible tends to become to us a document of objective historical information.”

The Bible is faulty in its morals:

Abraham, for instance, as the highest proof of his faith desires to sacrifice his son to God; Jacob wins the birthright by a refined deception of his blind father; Elijah slays the four hundred and fifty priests of Baal by the brook Kishon. Are these exactly praiseworthy examples?

Van Til tells us,

In practice for Brunner ... the Bible cannot teach anything about the “phenomenal world.” According to the critical principle adopted in earlier works and assumed in the present one, the phenomenal world is the world of impersonal forces. And revelation is said to deal with the world of “personal encounter”.

Packer says that “the Bible that is thought of as man’s testament of religious feeling, self-understanding, and ethical inklings is not really the same book as the Bible that is received as God’s testimony to himself,” expressing the neo-orthodox view as contrasted with his own.

So basically the Bible is a human book, faulty, inaccurate, mythological, not proposing propositional truth, a record of religious feelings. What then has become of God’s Word?

It would be false to say that the neo-orthodox do not believe that there are propositions in Scripture; only that the propositions are not true. Indeed with existentialism, a proposition cannot be true, because truth is experience. But the propositions may point to truth.

Propositions are merely pointers; and pointers can be effective whether they are true or false. Brunner states very clearly that a pointer need not be true. Even a false proposition points, because God is free from the limitations of abstract truth and can reveal himself in false statements as easily as in true.

For the neo-orthodox, “The word of God is within the Bible.” 

That is not to say that parts of the Bible are the Word of God, and parts of it are not. Rather all of the Bible, whether true or false, may be the Word of God, if it reveals God to me. If it does not, then it is not the Word of God. The Bible is not true, it becomes true. “With this conscious reservation, that we are saying something that we do not know, that is true only when it becomes true, let the page now be turned, and the Bible’s final suggestion be taken up (as a suggestion!).”

The Bible cannot command -- it is not knowable; it becomes true, but truth cannot be known. Indeed, one could almost say that in reality, the Word of God is not in the Bible, but rather in us, and the Bible stimulates us to find it there. The Word of God is a “Mysterium tremendum that draws the men of the Bible before our eyes out and on to the edge of all experience, thought, and action, to the edge of time and history, and impels them to attempt to leap off into the air, where obviously no man can stand.” Here is the existential leap of faith -- no knowing, only believing.

In fact, the Word of God, and God himself ultimately become one. “We are asked to drop all metaphysics once and for all. When speaking of God’s transcendence we are not to think of some being existing in self-contained form prior to his relation to man. God is identical with his revelation.”

Such is the Word of God to the neo-orthodox. It is vague, mysterious, unknowable, never certain. In the paradox of Scripture, in the midst of its absurdity, one finds God in experience, in the midst of tension. Such an experience cannot really be communicated, and indeed no two will be alike.

So where is biblical authority in all this? Why do we believe? That is the crucial question.

It must surely be obvious that in a system where truth is subjective, and any claim to certainty is regarded as “sin”, that all authority must be subjective.

We find men everywhere who desire to acknowledge as from God only such Scriptures as ‘find them,” -- who cast the clear objective enunciation of God’s will to the mercy of the currents of thought and feeling which sweep up and down in their own souls.

Custer says that “every man’s mind becomes his own authority.”

It is true that the illumination of the Holy Spirit is often appealed to, to deliver from subjectivism.

Let it be said that both positions [Roman Catholic and neo-orthodox] invoke the Holy Spirit, the former as author of both Scripture and tradition, the latter as illuminating mind and conscience to enable each individual to formulate his personal understanding of Christianity.

We will deal more with this later, but let it be said here that this sounds good -- if it would work. But many people who all claim to be illuminated by the Spirit have contradictory views. You may say that the other person is not being led by the Spirit, really, and is therefore wrong. But on what basis are you going to argue that? If only by your own illumination by the Spirit, how do you test your own? How do you know yours is not false, and his is not true? And you cannot argue from Scripture, because it is in error, and illumination is supposed to be what clears it up. You have to decide who’s illumination is true before you know what Scripture is true.

Of course, in neo-orthodoxy it really doesn’t matter; both may be correct, for truth is not certainty, but experience. In any case, authority is subjective and therefore not adequate.

The truth is that the neo-orthodox enterprise of trying to re-establish the authority of biblical teaching on salvation while rejecting biblical teaching on Scripture is inherently inconsistent and self-contradictory; thus, all versions of neo-orthodoxy, like all versions of liberalism before them, exhibit a built-in arbitrariness that it is not possible to eliminate.

Though evangelicals may not follow neo-orthodoxy in its extreme, their borrowing from it results in the same subjectivity. Berkeley Michelsen, writing in Biblical Authority says, “In whatever way man responds to God, man establishes God’s authority.” Surely that is saying essentially the same as Barth did? God has no authority objectively -- it is in the individual personal response that authority is born. Such authority can only be subjective. Rogers and Hubbard also seem very near neo-orthodoxy, with the idea that Scripture is not all the word of God and that the real truth of Scripture is unfalsifiable and is accepted by what amounts to a blind faith.

Perhaps it should be mentioned in passing that many inerrantists who continually find “guidance” in Scripture apart from it’s contextual meaning are practicing neo-orthodoxy. Such guidance is in an unfalsifiable position, being unrelated to the meaning of the text, and essentially amounts to a claim of direct revelation from God. We must be careful not to base our actions and beliefs on such purely subjective grounds as this.

There is no escape of subjectivism on any level of neo-orthodoxy, and thus it provides no adequate authority.

The fifth major area of attempt at securing authority without inerrancy is by substituting a new view of truth. We said at the beginning of this paper that the classic view of truth was a correspondence view, or non-contradiction. Such a view says that truth is what corresponds to reality. And of course, error is what does not correspond to reality. This means that truth is a characteristic of propositions, not of reality. Reality is, truth is a statement that is in line with that reality. Reality is neither true or false. A lie can be real, but it is not true. In this view, a true person is one who is trustworthy -- he always makes true statements.

There is a new view of truth being applied today. It is an intentionalist view of truth. In other words, a statement is true if it accomplishes what the author intended it to accomplish. Now in this case, a statement might be true even if some or all of its content does not correspond with reality. On the other hand, if it does not accomplish its purpose, it is false even if all the information in it is factually correct.

Also, by this view, a person could be regarded as true, if he lives up to someone’s intentions for him. Under this view, the Bible could be true, even if it has factually incorrect statements in it. Minor errors are immaterial, because they do not hinder the salvation message from getting across.

This appears like a very convenient view of truth for the errantist to adopt. Let’s examine it a little more closely, however, and see some of its implications.

In this view a lie is, if not impossible, at least nearly impossible to discover. If a person tells something that is not correct, with the intent to deceive, then he told the truth, if in fact he did deceive. Thus, to be adept at deceiving is virtuous, by this view, and a person who is a great deceiver is the most true. Satan becomes, then, nearly as true as God, for he is the great deceiver.

In this view also, the 9th commandment does not make sense. “Do not bear false witness” would have to mean that everything you say must accomplish its purpose. But surely that is partly relative to your neighbor? If you intend to inform him, and he is a real idiot, you might be a liar no matter how hard you try, and you could not help but break that commandment.

Though there may be a measure of value in the intention view of truth, it is obviously inadequate. Courts of justice are a farce, by this view.

Errantists generally do not take this view to its logical conclusion, but let’s notice how they do make use of it, Berkouwer comments thus:

For if instrumentality is related to this one central witness, then the term “continuity” can legitimately by used in the doctrine of the God-breathed Scripture without falling into dualism. For this is in harmony with the purpose of God-breathed Scripture. One can never have a clear conception of the latter when it is “formally” approached under the category of correctness or conformity with reality; it must be approached in direct relation to the nature and content of Scripture. For the purpose of the God-breathed Scripture is not at all to provide a scientific gnosis, in order to convey and increase human knowledge and wisdom; but to witness of the salvation of God unto faith. This approach does not mean to separate faith and knowledge. But the knowledge that is the unmistakable aim of Scripture is the knowledge of faith, which does not increase human wisdom, but is life eternal (Jn. 17:3).

He claims not to separate faith and knowledge. Yet such is the inevitable result of his view. If Scripture truth is governed by its purpose, then it is intentional, and is clearly a different kind of truth than scientific truth; or else, if scientific truth is also intentional, then it is meaningless. Dualism is not avoided.

He says later on,

It is not that Scripture offers us no information but that the nature of this information is unique. It is governed by the purpose of God’s revelation. The view of inspiration that forms the basis of the misunderstanding of this purpose considers “inerrancy” essential as a parallel characterization of reliability; that is a flight of fancy away from this purpose.

There is one more basic fallacy of this whole view. There are only two options. If Scripture must be interpreted according to its goal, then one must ask the question, “How do I find the goal.” If it is in Scripture, then I must interpret Scripture to find that goal, and at the same time interpret it according to that goal, which means that I must presuppose it. If I find the goal outside of Scripture, on the other hand, then I have an extra biblical authority over Scripture. There is no solution to this dilemma. Either way, my authority has become subjective.

At the same time, this view also destroys the unity of truth, as we have already intimated. Hubbard says, “Error theologically must mean that which leads us astray from the will of God or the knowledge of his truth.”

There is a definite discrepancy here between God’s truth, and other truth. If Jesus Christ is the Truth (John 14:6), and if God is the final absolute upon which all truth rests, the creator and sustainer, then surely all truth is his truth, and no truth is unimportant, or unrelated to any other truth. A scientist who discovers new truth about the universe is doing God’s will, as it was given to Adam. If we divide truth, we have lost our basis for rationality.

Obviously, as well, the intentionalists do not hold their view consistently. For example, Hubbard accused Lindsell of false statements about Fuller. But to do so, he had to revert to a correspondence view of truth. They use intention to interpret Scripture, but correspondence when criticizing.

At other times they use their theory well for their own convenience. Woodbridge says of Rogers and McKim, “The apologetic variety of history which Rogers and McKim write will make some professional historians wince.” Yet surely, manipulation of history is consistent with their view of truth. If it accomplishes its aim of persuading people to their view, it is true, whether it is correct or not, factually.

Another area of subjectivity in this view that should be mentioned is that it makes truth depend upon the receiver. It might be consistently argued, by intentionalism, that the Bible is true for such people as accept it, and false for such as refuse it.

There are two more methods of attempting to retain authority which we want to mention only briefly, and more study needs to be done into these two areas. The first is what I call “spiritualism.” We mentioned it once before in dealing with neo-orthodoxy. It is the view that the Holy Spirit enables us to discern between the truth and error of Scripture.

There is no doubt that illumination is a very important doctrine, and deserves far more attention than it gets. Packer says:

Bible commentaries, Bible classes, Bible lectures and courses, plus the church’s regular expository ministry, can give us fair certainty as to what scripture meant (and we should make full use of them to that end), but only through the Spirit’s illumination shall we be able to see how the teaching applies to us in our own situation.

But is it adequate to insure objective authority in the face of an errant Bible?

Hubbard thinks that it is. He says:

What proof did the prophets need to test whether God was speaking to them? Nothing but the power of that word itself. What proof did the Thessalonicans need that Paul’s gospel was true? Nothing but the conviction of God the Holy Spirit. What proof do we need to know whether the Bible is the Word of God? Nothing but the Spirit of God speaking to us in Scripture.

Actually, Hubbard’s examples are unfortunate, because although the prophets did not demand proof, God told the people not to believe them unless all that they said came to pass (Deut. 18:22), and Paul commended the Bereans, because they did not accept what he had to say without test, but being more noble than the Thessalonicans, they searched the Scripture to test the truth of Paul’s gospel. But Hubbard is not the only one who appeals to the Spirit.

Dr. Cremer was called upon to write the article “Inspiration” in the second edition of Herzog’s “realencyklopedia” (Vol. vi, sub. voc; pp. 745 seq.) which saw the light in 1880. In preparing this article he was led to take an entirely new view of the meaning of Qeopneustos, according to which it defines Scripture, in II Tim. iii. 16, not according to its origin, but according to its effect -- not as “inspired of God,” but as “inspiring its readers.”

Pinnock also seeks his authority in the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

I have come to place greater confidence in the power of the Spirit to make the Bible come alive for believers than I did before ... . Stress on the Spirit is noticeably lacking in the literature of inerrancy. I think it reveals a preoccupation with apologetic certainty....

If one is an errantist, then the only way to maintain authority is to assume that the Spirit enables us to differentiate between error and truth in Scripture. It is not enough to say that he helps us to understand it, for that does not deal with the problem. That the Spirit teaches us to understand it is the inerrantist position. There is no point in understanding error. Indeed, it cannot be understood, really, because error is unreasonable, and what is unreasonable cannot be understood.

The problem is, then, who’s witness of the Spirit is authoritative? Supposing two of us hold contradictory views as to what is error and what is true, both claiming the Spirit’s guidance. Unless you have something to test against, there is no reason for anybody to believe you before me. The authority is therefore subjective, and for that reason inadequate; it is inescapable.

The final attempt is that of direct revelation. This is at present uncommon among evangelicals, though it is the rule among cultists. But it is the next logical step from “spiritualism”; in fact, spiritualism is a disguised form of direct revelation. In spiritualism, the Spirit gives me direct revelation as to the true canon within the Bible. In direct revelation, I am not restricted to the Bible.

Pache says, ”Almost every heresy and sect has originated in a supposed revelation or a new experience on the part of its founder, something outside the strictly biblical framework.”

This is the ultimate result of acceptance of extra biblical and subjective authority. It is inadequate for precisely the same reasons as is spiritualism, so we will not bother to further refute it, but refer the reader back to that section.

 

To conclude our investigation of authority, let us note that without inerrancy, we have no adequate authority;

If it is finally settled that Scripture can err, then the church and its theologians will learn that no source and no standard remains to solve further doctrinal problems that may arise.

When we have no adequate authority, our doctrines have no secure base.

Where this [inerrancy] confession is not made, Scripture will not all be taken with all seriousness, elements of its teaching will inevitably be ignored, and the result, as Lindsell and Schaeffer with others correctly foresee, is bound to be a certain diminution of supernatural Christian faith -- as we have seen in the various versions of liberalism, neo-orthodoxy, and “biblical theology” and as we must now expect to see in new forms in tomorrow’s Roman Catholicism.

 

I am saying that whether it takes five years or fifty years any denomination or para-church group that forsakes inerrancy will end up shipwrecked. It is impossible to prevent the surrender of other important doctrinal teachings of the Word of God when Inerrancy is gone.

It may be argued by some that inerrancy does not provide any more adequate authority then does errancy.  Pinnock argues, with many others, that inerrancy is really not valid, since we all admit errors in our copies. Surely this argument can be seen through, since with the matter of the text we have variations, and we are quite aware what they are. Most of the text is quite certain.

The second argument is more difficult to refute; namely, that Scripture cannot be understood until it is interpreted, and that any interpretation will be subjective, since it will be colored by our background, education, etc. Now it may be true that interpretation has subjective elements in it, but it does not need to be wholly so. If language is valid, then much of Scripture will be obvious without much interpretation. The more precise the language, and the more objective it is, the less interpretation is involved. Also, we have something to test our interpretation against. We believe in the validity of reason. We recognize that man’s reason is fallen and so tainted. But though we may not be able, by reason, to understand infallibly, when the Holy Spirit points out inconsistency to us (error) in our interpretation, we can recognize it if we will. We have an objective base to argue from, whatever material we must deal with subjectively. We have an objective authority, infallible in all it touches, and therefore adequate.Inerrancy and. Authority

 

 

 

 

With all the talk of inerrancy, limited inerrancy, and various other  questions about the Bible today, it may sometimes be forgotten that what is actually at stake is the issue of authority. It is not a question of whether or not we have an authority. Montgomery, in writing about Romanism, says:

Surely some final authority must exist, and it would. appear that it now rests in the New Shape Roman theologian and. his community of like-minded. souls. There is thus more than irony in the definition of infallibility in Dominican Maurice Lelong’s “New Church Lexicon”: “The scandal of Vatican I. Infallibility can only be collective and. popular.” Inerrancy can no longer focus on one book or one man; it is now corporate and. democratic! Does this suggest the profound truth that no one ever dispenses with authority - one only relocates it?

Authority always exists. The question is, is my authority adequate? Where is it located?

I contend that, although any view of scripture allows for some kind of authority, without inerrancy there can be no adequate authority for the questions facing us.

This is not presented as a proof of inerrancy. It simply does not follow that because we need an adequate authority, therefore we must have it. If inerrancy of Scripture is false, my contention is that we do not have an adequate authority, and if we do not have an adequate authority, we will have to live without one - or we can commit suicide, and. if the Bible is errant, we have no authority great enough to tell us we must not do so.

In order to present my arguments clearly, it is important to the reader know where I am coming from. Many writers today do not begin by establishing their presuppositions, perhaps with the hope that the reader will think they don’t have any. But no one ever thinks without presuppositions, and for this reason, every argument is actually circular. The logical positivist, who claims to work inductively from primary information, still has to presuppose the validity of reason, or his senses.

Not only do all arguments carry presuppositions, but presuppositions are very difficult to refute, because before they can be falsified they must be given up. They cannot be proven or dis-proven.

That is not to say, however, that no argument can be persuasive. J. M. Frame brings this out clearly.

A “proof” of, say, the primacy of reason, can be highly persuasive and logically sound even though, at one level, circular. The circularity is rarely blatant; it lurks in the background.. One never says, “reason is true because reason says it is.” One says instead, “Reason is true because one must presuppose it even to deny it.” The second. argument is just as circular as the first. Both presuppose the validity of reason. But in the second argument the presupposition is implicit rather than explicit. And the second one is highly persuasive! The irrationalist cannot help but note that he is (in many cases) presenting his irrationalism in a highly rational way. He is trying to be more rational than the rationalist - a contradictory way to be! He must decide either to be a more consistent irrationalist (but note the paradox of that!) or to abandon his irrationalism. Of course, he might renounce consistency altogether, thus renouncing the presupposition of the argument. But the argument shows him vividly how hard it is to live without rationality. The argument is circular, but it draws some important facts to his attention. The argument is persuasive though circular because down deep in our hearts we know that we cannot live without reason.

 

Again he says:

A Christian Theist, while conceding that the argument for God’s existence is circular, nevertheless will claim that the argument is sound and persuasive, for he devoutly believes that his position is true, and he believes that it can be recognized clearly as such. He believes that God made man to think in terms of this circularity, rather than in terms of some competing circularity.”

While conceding that my arguments will be ultimately circular, and admitting my presuppositions right from the start, as I believe any honest writer ought to do, I still believe that the arguments presented will be reasonable and, hopefully, persuasive.

 

Basic presuppositions of this paper

 

Firstly, in this paper I am presupposing the validity of reason, or more specifically, the principle of non-contradiction. Actually, anyone who ever sits down to write, or even anyone who converses with anyone, has in practice presupposed. the validity of reason, for without reason, all communication is nonsense, and it is foolish to attempt it. It stands to reason that if my propositions can contradict reality, and if I can contradict myself, then in fact I will have communicated nothing to anyone; reason is therefore essential to communication.

Indeed, one cannot even do away with reason unreasonably. To deny reason, one must first assume it, as Frame pointed out above.

Secondly, I am presupposing the validity of language as a means of expressing truth.

There is a contemporary view of language that claims that language is incapable of conveying truth about God. Indeed, some linguists go so far as to say that language cannot be true at all, because of the discrepancy between the word and the object. But there is an immediate problem with this proposition. If we say, “Language cannot convey truth,” then we must ask, is that a true statement? If it is a true statement, then it is false, for it has just done what it said could not be done. And if it is false, on the other hand, then it is eliminated.

So language can convey truth; if it could not people would not talk, because it would be practically meaningless to do so. But what about God-talk? Is that, perhaps meaningless?

David Hume, the skeptical empiricist, was convinced that God-talk is non-sense. Geisler writes concerning his principle,

According to this principle, a statement, to be meaningful, must either be true by definition, (such as “all triangles have three sides”) or else it must be verifiable by one or more of the five senses. The principle, of course, proved to be too narrow (since it eliminated even some scientific statements) and had to be revised. But the conclusion reached by Ayer and other semantical atheists after him is still with us, namely that all God-talk is meaningless.”

 

This is also the basic idea of the logical positivist. But how do we answer it? It is true that much God’-talk cannot be verified, or falsified, by the senses. Is it therefore meaningless?

We must realize that God-talk is a language of presupposition. And as we said before, presupposition resists falsification. Indeed, the presuppositions of the logical positivist (the validity of logic, and the senses) cannot be empirically tested, and. so are non-sense by their own standard!

Obviously, God-talk is valid when viewed in that light. In fact, the idea that language is useless is based on the presupposition that language evolved. We presuppose, rather, that language was given to man by God, and is therefore meaningful. It cannot convey all there is to know about God, but it can express something about God validly and truthfully.

Even though the argument of this paper is not based on inerrancy, there can be no question that it is a presupposition that will color the content of the paper, and so I include it as my third presupposition. Some may feel that this is not truly a presupposition, since it seems to be arguable without circularity, but in reality it is not. Let us follow the argument closely. Warfield gives the basis of the doctrine clearly.

We believe this doctrine of the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures primarily because it is the doctrine which Christ and his apostles believed, and which they have taught to us. It may sometimes seem difficult to take our stand frankly by the side of Christ and his apostles. It will always be found safe.

In the same vein, Montgomery says, “Logically, if the Bible is not inerrant, though Jesus thought it was, He can hardly be the incarnate God He claimed to be and for whom the same claims are made by his apostles.”

I believe that the evidence from Scripture that Christ did believe in inerrancy has been adequately given by other writers, but we may cite, for example, Matt. 5:18, and Luke 14:17, or Matt. 22:43, demonstrating that Christ argued the very words of the Psalm. But one might say, “You are taking your evidence that Christ believed in inerrancy of Scripture from Scripture, and must therefore presuppose it’s inerrancy, since if it is not inerrant, then it may be in error at the points of Christ’s view of Scripture.” I must respond, that is correct. Thus, inerrancy is a presupposition, howbeit, I believe, a valid one.

Finally, a point that is more of a clarification than a presupposition. We must differentiate between a system of hermeneutics, and a statement regarding the nature of Scripture. Some, for example, have argued against inerrancy, saying that the Bible does not speak with scientific accuracy, i.e. that it often rounds numbers, etc. Now, that may be a sound principle of interpretation, or it may not, but it has nothing to say about whether the Bible is inerrant or not. In fact, it more supports inerrancy than otherwise. Inerrancy is a presupposition which hermeneutics must take into account. Parker expresses this very lucidly in his article, Encountering Present-day views of Scripture.

Though the confession of inerrancy does not help us to make the literary judgments that interpretation involves, it commits us in advance to harmonize and integrate all that we find Scripture teaching, without remainder, and so makes possible a theological grasp of Christianity that is altogether believing and altogether obedient.

There are other presuppositions that it might be useful to the reader to know, but I think most would be summed up adequately by saying that I hold a Theistic World View.

As to the scope of this paper, I am not attempting to defend the doctrine of inerrancy, or even of inspiration. I am only seeking to establish my thesis. I shall begin with a short historical analysis of the concept of truth, and show how views of truth have changed through the past centuries. I will then seek to give a method of building a view of truth, and for testing such views. I will show how the modern views of truth are inadequate, and. why the classic view of truth did not satisfy.

All this is to lay the groundwork for a discussion of authority, because authority is ultimately based on truth. I will describe two kinds of authority, showing the adequacy of one, and the inadequacy of the other.

I will then give the major views of Scripture that various errantists have used in an attempt to preserve an adequate authority for Scripture, and I will show why they cannot do so. In conclusion, I will show how inerrancy does provide an adequate authority.

 

I. A short historical analysis of the concept of truth

The classic view of truth is two-fold. First, truth cannot be contradictory (i.e. A cannot at the same time be non-A), and second, it must correspond with reality. This idea of truth assures two things. First, it assures that truth is a unity, for if a truth cannot be contradictory and still be true, then it follows that a truth from the realm of, say, physics cannot contradict a truth from the realm of biology, or one of them is not true. Or, a truth from the realm of history cannot contradict a truth from the realm of theology, or nature, and so on. So if the law of non-contradiction is valid, then there must be a unity to truth, and if the unifying factor can be discovered, all truth can be correlated.

Secondly, it assures that truth will be objective, for it must correspond to reality. That does not, of course, mean that every real proposition is true. A proposition may be a real proposition and yet not be in line with reality (i.e. a lie). Thus, a true proposition about a proposition that does not line up with reality is “that is a lie,” because that lines up with the reality of the falsity of the first proposition.

Neither does this do away with the validity of subjective or relative truth, because both are actually objective assessments of limited or comparative facts. For example, if a person says, “Spinach is good,” that subjective statement may be objectively true as it pertains to that person if in fact he really likes spinach, or thinks that spinach is good even if he does not like it. If so, it is a valid subjective truth, and it is also objectively true as regards that person.

The classical pagan philosophers were unable to correlate all truth, because they lacked. the unifying factor, i.e. the theistic God. The apostles possessed the unifying factor, and were able to build a valid epistemology that could account for both general principles and particular incidents. But with Thomas Aquinas that began to change. He believed that there was some good in the human intellect, that it was not totally depraved.

Bacon followed his lead. Geisler says of him,

After tearing down the “idols” of the old deductive method of discovering truth, Bacon argued that “the best demonstration by far is experience.” The inductive method, he said, is the true way to interpret nature. One can understand how Bacon could consider inductive logic a valid method for scientific inquiry, but he went far beyond reasonable bounds when he claimed universal applicability for his method.

This means that every general principle had to be derived from experience-able details. The fact that he was assuming a general principle a priori (i.e. that reason is capable of interpreting man’s experiences) did not seem to occur to him.

But what would he do with God? For God could not be discovered inductively. Again from Geisler:

For Bacon and even more clearly for Hobbes who followed him, the Bible serves a religious and evocative function -- it leads us to honor and obey God but does not make cognitive truth claims about God nor affirmations about the physical universe.

What Bacon and Hobbes had done, whether or not they realized it, was to deny either non-contradiction or else the truth of theology. Thus they set the groundwork for the destruction of the unity of truth. For Hobbes, religion is absurd, and must be accepted by blind faith. But why accept it if it is not true? And if it is true, you have two kinds of truth that are contradictory! Unity is destroyed, and essentially, non-contradiction is destroyed.

Immanuel Kant also contributed to the loss of unity. He was an agnostic, and taught that we cannot know, only perceive. We can know the “thing-to-me,” (phenomenal) but not the “thing-in-itself” (noumenal). This gulf is impassible by the nature of knowing (i.e. as Bacon taught it). Although he did not deny objective truth, he said we cannot know it. Facts have nothing to do with values, because facts are what we perceive, values are what are real. So perceptions, in his thinking, are objective, realities subjective.

Kierkegaard followed Kant, also making a fact/value dichotomy, but distinguishing between the factual or propositional and. the personal. The two were unrelated. God is beyond proof, the doctrines of God and of inspiration are unfalsifiable, because totally divorced from reason. God then becomes practically subjective. He can only be known by faith, whereas facts are known by reason. So we have the same dichotomy between theological Truth and. natural truth.

It is interesting that Rogers and McKim attribute this same dichotomy to Calvin:

Calvin did not wish to substitute theology for philosophy. Each had. its own appropriate realm -- theology for matters of salvation and the life of faith, and philosophy for matters of worldly wisdom and practice.

It is hard to conceive of Calvin as a modern man!

The third stage is a move to irrationality. Following Bacon’s lead, and moving from specifics to universals, man finally realized that he had to give up the rationality of faith, and theology, but not only that. Everything had to be irrational. Why? Because ideally all facts must be related to a system to be intelligib1e. But man found that facts are so varied that he could not find a system that would cover all of them. He despaired of ever doing so, and concluded that all facts are irrational and unrelated. Rationality is purely a subjective, pragmatic way of looking at things. It must be subjective, because (following Kant) I am the only person that I know exists. I perceive everyone else, and that means they are phenomenal and unknowable. And it must be pragmatic because “If factuality is non-rational, it is expected that rationality will be merely ‘practical’.” It is clear that we cannot live without reason, but if it is unreal, then it must be some make-believe practical system that we adopt to give ourselves security.

Not only does truth become subjective under irrationality, but the way is opened for humanism as well. If my own existence is the only thing I can be sure of, then I must make myself the ultimate reference point for interpreting my perceptions. As Van Til says,

That issue may be stated simply and comprehensively by saying that in the Christian view of things it is the self-contained God who is the final point of reference, while in the case of the modern view it is the would-be self-contained man who is the final point of reference in all interpretation.”

We will see later on what this does to authority.

 

II. An adequate test for systems of truth

If we are ever to arrive at some idea of what truth is, we must have a test by which we evaluate each view of truth.

The first thing we must not do is formulate a test that will, by definition, rule out any view of truth but what we want truth to be. For example, Hume argued against miracles by defining a miracle as something that never happens. If we accept that definition, then of course there are no miracles in reality, because as soon as something happens it is not a miracle, by the definition. Such an argument is not valid. It is a misuse of language.

An adequate view of truth must be able to account for everything; every fact, every observation, every feeling, every illusion. There must be nothing in the universe that is not covered by the system. The only alternative is to give up rationality, and we have shown in the introduction how difficult that is. We should not give it up until we have tried every possibility.

But how can we go about building a system of truth that will cover everything? I would like to suggest that we search for truth in the same way that the legendary Sherlock Holmes sought for criminals.

In the first place, we must not pretend to think without presuppositions. If we think we do, we are deceiving ourselves, and a self-deceived person will never arrive at truth. In fact, our system of truth, ultimately, is our presupposition. So what we really have to test are our presuppositions.

Secondly, we must not limit ourselves to any one way of thinking. Some thinkers have tried to reason from pure deduction, but have not been able to deduce all that is. Others, like Bacon, have tried to reason from induction only, but have not been able to put all their facts into any one system. But is it inconceivable that both methods of thinking could be used together? It ought to be attempted.

Thirdly, one must not rule out, a priori, any system of truth simply because it carries obligations with it, or would demand change of us. That is dishonesty.

How did Holmes operate? He took the facts that he had, and from them induced. several general theories. From these theories he deduced further facts that ought to exist if the theory were correct. Then he would begin to look for those facts. If they did not, in reality, exist, he tried a different theory, and tested it in the same way. At the same time, again inducing, if he discovered a fact that did not fit the theory, he altered or expanded the theory, or else dropped it, and continued on from there.

If we apply this method to modern systems of thought, we are faced with some grave difficulties. Both irrationality and subjectivism are out of line with our minds -- and our minds are part of what is there. Neither one can account for it. We find it impossible to think in a totally irrational manner. Both leave us with subjective truth, and. yet we cannot live with that either, for we are forever trying to persuade other people to think like we do, or at least thinking that they are wrong in the way they think. But if truth is subjective, then nobody is wrong, and. if that were true, we would not think that they are wrong. We are contradicting our presuppositions to suppose so.

Let us postulate a pantheistic world view. Can it account for all that is? Well, it says that all is unity. But is that all there is? Don’t we experience diversity? Ah, yes, but that appearance of diversity is illusion. But surely the illusion is something different from the reality? For if illusion and reality were the same thing, we would never know the difference. Pantheism cannot account for all there is.

Perhaps the universe is all chance. Will that explain all there is? From that premise, we would naturally expect the universe to be random. There is, in that view, no real cause and effect. Why should chance move in an orderly way? We never experience it so. But the world seems to be orderly, not random. And if all is chance, the universe should be impersonal. But that does not account for man, who at least appears to be personal. And if all is chance, why don’t we live that way? Why are we careful what we eat, what we do, etc? For if all is chance, then when I jump off a bridge, I never know if I will fall or not. Chance cannot account for all that is.

Perhaps someone would argue that the classic view of truth as objective and unified has not been able to explain all there is either. We would reply that those who did not find it adequate built it on too narrow a foundation. It can account for all there is, if one admits the possibility of a theistic God.

Working from the general hypothesis of a theistic God, one would expect order in the universe. And in fact, the universe seems to be orderly. One would expect some evidence of personality, and man seems to be personal. A correlation between man and his environment would be expected, and we find such a correlation. We would expect man to have a moral sensibility, and he does. We would. expect a correlation between man’s thoughts, and the place in which he lives, and man does tend to think in terms of correspondence.

We could go on and on. It is granted that an adequate application of this method is beyond the power of the pen, but it is also believed that if anyone will look honestly at the issue, he will see that as there are only a limited number of possibilities, and only one will account for all that is, it must be correct. And if it is, then we have preserved rationality -- unity and objectivity.

 

III. The question of authority

The next question confronting us is, what about authority? What is it? What constitutes an adequate authority?

The dictionary gives several definitions of the word. For example, “A citation (as from a book) used in defense or support of ones actions, opinions, or beliefs,” or “power to require and receive submission: the right to expect obedience.”

Both carry with them the idea of a control of actions and beliefs. Authority is the reason behind what I do and think. Authority is the “ought” of life. Perhaps authority is not necessary, in the ultimate sense of the word, but none the less, “no one ever dispenses with authority, one only relocates it.” Every man attempts always to show reasons why he is right, or why he did what he did, and if he does not, it is because he considers himself the ultimate authority.

J.I. Packer comments that “only truth can have final authority to determine belief and behavior.” The idea is that the “ought” says that I must bring my beliefs and behavior into line with what is true.

But why should I believe what is true? What is wrong with believing something that is false? To many, this question may seem absurd. Of course, it is stupid to deliberately believe a falsehood. But it is a legitimate question none the less. So again I ask, why? Because it is necessary for survival. I will not live long, physically if I refuse to live according to the physical reality of the universe. But even more important, I will not survive spiritually without living in harmony with the spiritual reality of the universe.

Not only does authority involve the demand that we line up with truth, it also involves how we discover truth. Everything we believe we believe on authority. We accept on authority that Julius Caesar was a Roman Emperor. Our authority is history, or more correctly, historians. Our authority for believing something may be another person, or a book, or our own senses, or our own reason. But we always believe by assuming the authority of our source of knowledge. We cannot know without authority.

 

Finally, authority must be as general as the class to which it refers. For example, human beings are all a part of the material universe. Therefore the realities of matter have authority over all mankind. Every man, to survive, must live in line with material reality. No one is exempt from the authority of the reality of gravity. Every unsupported body within the gravitational dominance of the earth falls toward the earth.

So a man needs two things; his authority must be able to tell him what reality is, and also how to live in harmony with the reality.

Authority is based on truth. Therefore since we have two basic concepts of truth, we have also two ideas of authority.

If, as many claim, truth is subjective, then authority is also subjective. The idea of subjective truth is based on the assumption that all that is real is in the subject. The material universe may not be real, nor other people either. All that I know is real is myself. Subjective authority says that the only reality I must line up with is myself, and that I myself can be trusted as the source of truth regarding myself. Now, if in fact reality only involves myself, then subjective authority is adequate. But if reality can apply to things other than myself, such authority is not adequate, because it does not account for all of reality. In fact, truth is not subjective, and this is illustrated by the fact that not even the subjectivists live as though it were. If they do, they don’t live. Even a subjectivist will get out of the way of a Mack truck, if he sees it. Why? Because he recognizes and submits to the objective authority of the laws of motion. Objective authority is adequate, for it accounts for the Mack truck. Subjective authority is not adequate, and the subject knows it.

Some would say that we need objective authority in the material realm, but that subjective authority is adequate in the spiritual realm.

More than a century ago, he [Schleiermacher] taught that the true source of theology was not the Bible but man’s religious consciousness. Thus the objective revelation of God in the Bible was set aside, and man’s subjective opinions were exalted to the position of authority.

Again, the only possible way to hold this is to assume that man is the only spiritual reality in the universe. If there is a God who is real, subjective authority cannot account for him.

It may be argued that objective authority is not adequate either, because it demands that I be in harmony with all of reality, and I cannot know all of reality. By this argument, I should not be surviving. This objection is invalid on two counts. Not all of reality is applicable to me directly and at all times. If there are no elephants where I live, then truths about elephants may not be applicable to me at present. Secondly, it does not take the theistic God into account. If he is the creator, then we can expect him to be in harmony with all of reality. And therefore, if we are in harmony with him, we will be in harmony with all of reality. That does not mean that we approve of all reality. The way to be in harmony with the reality of sin, for example, is to hate it, and expect it to be judged, finally.

In summary, subjective authority is not adequate, because it takes myself only into account. If there is any reality there, besides myself, subjective authority cannot account for it, and any attempt to do so is no more authoritative than anyone elses' attempt.

Objective authority, on the other hand, is adequate if the source is dependable and knowledgeable. Keep in mind that a source may be dependable and knowledgeable in a limited sphere, and so be adequate authority in that limited sphere, but remain an inadequate authority in a broader sphere. For example, our senses are a reliable source of objective authority, in a limited. sphere (the material) and when their frailties are taken into account (i.e. one must be tested against the other, for our senses may be deceiving; and their limits must be recognized). That the senses are a relatively objective authority is seen in the fact that by following them we manage to survive, whereas when they are impaired (i.e. as through alcohol consumption), non-survival increases. But our senses, on the other hand , are not an adequate objective authority for direct spiritual awareness.

 

 

IV. The search for authority in errancy

 

There are perhaps two main reasons why many evangelicals have repudiated the inerrancy of Scripture. The first is because of apparent internal contradictions. They believe that there are things in Scripture that do not harmonize; such as various dates, etc. The second reason is that they believe there are things in Scriptures that contradict the findings of science. Berkouwer tacitly admits this, when he says, “This has gone hand in hand with an increasing revulsion against ‘harmonism’ and ‘concordism’ phenomena which all too often advance a view of Scripture that demands too much of it.”

Stephen Davis says that the Bible should be authoritative for every Christian on all that it says on any subject until he comes across something which he judges that he, for good reasons, cannot accept.

What the errantists may not realize is that they had to shift their authority before they could assert that there are any errors in the Bible. If scripture is our absolute authority, then what contradicts it must be wrong, and contradictions within it must be apparent, and should be possible to harmonize with proper hermeneutics and further light. Only if I, a priori, admit that there are other authorities at least equal to Scripture, can I admit to errors in Scripture. This attitude toward Scripture is not in the least a necessary one. Better scholarship is constantly reducing the internal conflicts in Scripture, and science is a very unstable pillar to build one’s authority upon. It is continually changing its dogmas. For example, Scripture was once scoffed at for talking about the sun rising, (though every scientist, in everyday language, speaks of the sunrise and sunset). But now, with the advent of relativity, scientist say that it really doesn’t matter whether you speak of the sun going around the earth, or the earth around the sun; it all depends on your frame of reference, anyway. We have no way of knowing for sure which way it is. So old concepts of science are shown to be out of date, and if the Bible is allowed to change by every whim of science, it may be false today and true tomorrow.

Errantists have recognized that with their view of inspiration, Biblical authority was placed on a flimsy foundation, and have proposed a variety of theories to maintain the authority of an errant Scripture. But none of them are adequate to do so, as we shall see in the remainder of this paper.

In these systems there is bound to be overlap, as they all have some things in common, and a few things are common to all. This should be kept in mind as we proceed.

The first theory that we will examine is the theory of accommodation, or adaptation.

The basic idea of this theory is that God accommodated himself to humanity in the Scriptures in order to make them comprehensible to man, and in so doing, had to incorporate errors. It is often likened to a little child who’s father talks to him in a truncated language, accommodating himself to the child’s vocabulary and understanding. Pinnock uses this argument, claiming that it is not necessary for the Bible to be inerrant just because it is i